Photo by Sue Tone.
Baker Igal Blumstein, with a pan of fresh-baked French Bread, is a third generation baker and owner of Stone Flour Bakery and Cafe in Mayer.
Originally published Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 05:59a.m.
When the 1902 historical brick building on Central Avenue in Mayer sold to new owners this past July, Flour Stone Bakery & Café — which rented space in the former building — relocated to the frontage road along Highway 69 in the former Teskey’s Restaurant location.
Kim and Igal Blumstein bought the former Central Avenue sandwich shop, lock, stock and barrel, in 2015. They expanded the breakfast menu with fresh-baked pastries and kept the sandwiches on the lunchtime menu.
Blumstein’s love of pastries and breads permeates the shop.
A third-generation old-fashioned baker, Blumstein started working after school at age 13 next to his baker father as “clean-up boy” in Connecticut.
“He had a donut crew made up of five high school kids and one adult,” the Mayer baker said. “One day the whole crew got mad at the foreman and I got promoted to making donuts.”
At the next bakery where his father worked the ovens, Blumstein would fry donuts, then wait for his father to finish work.
“He gave me some pieces of dough and I practiced braiding six strands into challah,” he said. For months, he took home dough and became more skilled at the traditional Jewish bread served on the Sabbath and holidays.
When the challah baker called in sick, Blumstein, age 14, said, “I can make it — watch.” That was a big job, he said.
In the mid-1970s, customers started buying their bread from supermarket bakeries, and the 11 bakeries in his town shrunk to three or four.
Blumstein’s grandfather was a baker in a Polish village close to the Russian border.
“When the Russians came in, they were nice if you didn’t go against them. One of my great-uncles was chief of police,” he said. “A year later, the Germans attacked the Russians, and those who cooperated with the Russians left with them for Russia. Unfortunately, my grandparents wanted to stay.”
They were killed in 1940. Other family members escaped to Russia. Blumstein’s father was 20 and met and married a Russian woman, and they emigrated to Israel in the 1950s, because the United States wasn’t taking in immigrants without sponsors and a job waiting for them.
In 1968, the family found a sponsor and moved to this country. Blumstein, who turned 11 on the ship, said this is when he learned how to count in English. His father died in 1977, and Blumstein said he knows his father would have been proud to see his son owned a bakery and his two grandsons also work in the business.
Jeremiah, 21, will study radiology at Pima Community College in the fall. Benjamin, 22, already “doing everything,” will follow in his father’s footsteps.
“It’s a lost profession. There is nobody coming up learning how to bake,” Blumstein said. “Baking used to be a good job, it made a good living. Anymore, it’s not.”
When many things became instant — instant coffee, instant pudding — 30 or 40 years ago, bread dough was sold in powder form. The fermentation process in Blumstein’s bread gives it its flavor, something powder never did, he said.
The large mixer can make 12 to 18 two-pound loaves at a time. He uses honey, not sugar, in several types of bread, and butter, not vegetable oil, in others. The ingredients of Honey Health Wheat Bread, for instance, are wheat flour, water, butter, honey, salt and yeast.
Local customer Dale Young said everything he has bought at Flour Stone Bakery has been great. “It’s fresher; it doesn’t have all the preservatives. You won’t be disappointed in the sourdough,” he said, as he paid for a pastrami sandwich he was delivering to his wife at Mayer Elementary School.
Flour Stone Bakery is located at 10050 Highway 69 in Mayer. Hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Blumstein said he is considering staying open in the future until 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays to give the community a place to gather in the evening. For more information, call 928-277-8197.