A&J King Artisan Bakers has taken up residence on a stretch of Boston Street in Salem where its neighbors are a gas station, a barbershop, and a pet supply store. It’s an unusual spot to find the North Shore’s best bakery, but it’s a wonderful new home and base of operations for co-owners Andy and Jackie King.
And lest you think “best bakery on the North Shore” is lofty praise for the 11-year-old business, consider that A&J King Artisan Bakers has won Best of the North Shore for, in rough terms, forever.
“But wait,” you say. “I thought they were on Central Street.”
They still are, and the Kings plan on adding more seating and expanding the lunch menu. But the Boston Street location is the bakery’s recently opened larger facility.
Andy and Jackie King
“The reasons we expanded may sound kind of boring,” says Andy, who handles breads. “It’s not because we wanted to create a new cronut. For a while we were at capacity. Sometimes we just couldn’t bake more [at Central Street].”
Jackie, the pastry maven, adds, “And we couldn’t hire people because there was nowhere to put them.”
“We were really trying to create a better space for our employees,” says Andy. “I think when people hear a small business is growing, [they fear] it’ll get worse. But we’re growing to get better.”
The Boston Street building accommodates what has become a thriving company with 40 employees and retail and wholesale sides of the business. All of the baking has moved to the new digs, where there’s enough room to meet costumer demand. At Central Street, the Kings were forced to turn down new business so they could maintain the quality their customers have come to expect.
Besides offering a significant size increase, the Boston Street retail space is brighter, with high ceilings and counter seating in front of enormous windows that let natural light stream in. There’s also counter seating at the coffee bar.
Plus, Andy and Jackie set up Boston Street to include a pastry room that sits next to the retail space, with a set of windows large enough for customers and passersby to watch some of the production action.
“I always want people to see where their food comes from,” says Andy. “I like the ability of customers—or anyone—to see what we do.”
And what they do is bake. A lot.
Now that it’s officially autumn, customers can indulge their pumpkin cravings with a cornucopia of seasonal offerings made with pumpkins from Brooksby Farm in Peabody.
For the two locals—Jackie was born and raised in Topsfield and Andy was raised in Rhode Island—sourcing produce from local farms is key. “All of our fruit produce during the summer is local,” says Jackie. “We rarely get food from a commodity seller.”
The Kings’ success is the result of years of hard work, from their beginnings at the New England Culinary Institute to training at the Standard Baking Company in Portland, Maine, to opening A&J King Artisan Bakers.
“For six years Andy worked all hours. Eventually he went from six days a week to five,” says Jackie.
“As a small-business owner, it’s always a work-life balance,” says Andy. “We’re lucky to have the staff we do.”
He adds with a laugh, “I have yet to learn management skills.”
A&J King Artisan Bakers
Central Street, Salem, 978-744-4881;
Boston Street, Salem, 978-674-5387