Jen Urich is planting the seeds for a business expansion this fall.
Farmer x Baker, her 160-square-foot shipping container-turned-window-service-café in Aspinwall’s Allegheny RiverTrail Park, is adding a brick-and-mortar spot in O’Hara Township. The growing company will also cater weekend brunches at Cellar on Penn in the Strip District starting Aug. 7.
The new takeout spot, general store and production facility at 1101 Powers Run Road will serve the same field-to-foodie menu that’s resonated with customers since Farmer x Baker debuted in July 2019. All sandwiches, salads, baked goods, vegan soft serve ice cream and botanical beverages are made from scratch with organic, non-GMO ingredients. Colorful flowers garnish many dishes.
Bagels are the biggest seller. The shipping container’s sole oven has churned out 10,000 of them so far.
Farmer x Baker’s shipping container season typically runs from April through November. It’s heated and insulated, but still no match for Pittsburgh winters.
Diners can grab a bite Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and enjoy dinner hours on Thursday and Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. Ten percent of all profits go back to Allegheny RiverTrail Park, formerly known as Aspinwall Riverfront Park. Officials recently acquired an additional six acres of land and a 1.5-mile trail corridor along the river that stretches into O’Hara and Sharpsburg, prompting the name change.
The new site — slated to open in September — is 10 times the size of the shipping container, allowing Urich to start a bread program, sell prepared foods and fresh and preserved produce, and offer catering services. She also plans to increase her 20-person staff to 40 full-time employees and offer them benefits.
Urich is modeling the space after Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a place she frequented as a child.
“I grew up riding my bike to my neighborhood store with 50 cents burning a hole in my pocket,” she says. “I’m excited to be part of a neighborhood and give local kids the same experience.”
Urich sources ingredients from local farms, including her own. Root and Heart Farm, located in Gibsonia, is a 210-year-old agricultural operation that focuses on heirloom produce. Other area growers keeping Urich stocked with seasonal goods include Tiny Seed Farm and Freedom Farms. Although her homestead is now closed to the public, she might once again host events there next spring, depending on the Covid situation.
The O’Hara space will open for pickup and delivery through an in-house service rather than third-party drivers.
In the Strip, brunch at Cellar on Penn will be held every Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Farmer x Baker staff will be stationed on the sidewalk, which will be lined with picnic tables. The menu will feature all of the “greatest hits” from the Aspinwall shipping container, including many vegan and gluten-free options.
“That’s what drew us to the Strip,” Urich says. “People are looking for something a little different and that’s what we offer: veggie-forward fuel.”
Are more shipping containers in Farmer x Baker’s future?
Urich says yes, with the possibility of another storefront, too.
“What we are doing struck a chord with the public,” she says. “Our style of hospitality resonates through our food and connects people to nature. We want customers to feel better when they leave than when they arrive. And that starts with the moment we take your order.”