New bakery off to good start in Tarboro

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Steve Gilbert, helps customer Phyllis Mueller Wednesday at Alimentaire Wholesome Breads in Tarboro.


Staff Writer

Friday, August 31, 2018

TARBORO —- Steve and Franca Gilbert opened a small bakery in January called Alimentaire Wholesome Bread Co. at 600 Trade St. in Tarboro.

The Gilberts said the first six months have mostly gone how they envisioned.

“We’re very close to where we projected we would be and we’re very much aligned where we want to be,” Steve Gilbert said. “When the bakery opened, everyone came and the summer hit and it dips a bit because people are traveling. Now, it’s back on the upward swing. It’s just the cycle of selling food.”

The couple spent 19 years in the bigger Wake County area before they decided to make the move to Tarboro.

“Connecting with the people has been important,” Franca Gilbert said. “We didn’t have that even in Wake Forest, which is a lot bigger town than Tarboro. I would say 85 percent of the people that have come through that door, I know their name, their whole back story, and that’s part of a fabric that make this community.”

In their previous occupations, Franca, who hails from Belgium, was a French instructor in Wake County Public Schools. Steve said he worked in various capacities in the logistics industry. The Gilberts met while they were both U.S. Army paratroopers stationed at Fort Bragg.

The Gilberts believe they came to Tarboro at a time when a local bakery was needed in rural Edgecombe County. Alimentaire Wholesome Bread Co. sells fresh bread from organic and locally sourced grains and not from ingredients that are genetically modified.

The last known local bakery was located in downtown Tarboro about 40 or 50 years, Steve Gilbert recalled.

“We’’ve enjoyed the opportunity to come to Tarboro that hasn’t had a bakery in many years,” Gilbert said. “Over the time, people have relied upon sub-par bread or eliminated it from their diet completely because of the taste, chemicals or other things of that nature. Coming to Tarboro where there hadn’t been a bakery for so long has been a great opportunity to re-educate people and re-introduce people. There are people that have never experienced a French bauguette or croissant because they haven’t been available.”

While business has gone well so far, the Gilberts acknowledged they still deal with the challenge of getting the community as a whole to know there is a local bakery in town and getting them to come support the business.

It’s something very common that local small businesses often encounter when trying to make their mark in a community and getting people to patronize their businesses instead of the well-established corporations or big-box chain businesses.

The Gilberts said they’re still learning the seasons of selling bread to residents in the area, but they’re emphatic about not undermining their intergrity in what the mission of their bakery is all about. 

“The thing we aren’t going to do is compromise like if our bauguettes aren’t selling, then we aren’t going to stop making bauguettes,” Steve Gilbert said. “This is the heart of what this bakery is about, which is wholesome breads and pastries. We will not become the place where you can come and get donuts or bagels. We will vanish in the night before we become something we weren’t intended to be. ... We want to inspire people to eat healthier and be healthier in their general wellness overall.”