Author Topic: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?  (Read 5090 times)

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Offline waltertore

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the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« on: October 03, 2013, 12:01:21 PM »
Hi All:  We have several big contracts that make up 90% of our business.   Costs continue to go up and I had to submitt a price increase on our products.  1 of our customers, who have a corporate office somewhere, handled this and I had to deal direct with them instead of the people we sell directly to.   I gave them a price that was right in line with the premade frozen garbage they can buy through GFS and Sysco but was 40% higher than our current price.   I got an email right back saying 40% is too high and would I negotiate a new price.  I cited we make everything by hand, use all natural ingredients, no preservatives/artifical colors/flavors,  local ingredients when available, and no high saturated oils like soybean, cottonseed, and such.  I also stated we can never compete with buying power for ingredients like Lenders Bagels, and Nabisco.  I ended it with a warm heartfelt thank you for using us but we can not negotiate on the price.   Today I got a response they are ok with the price increase.   

It saddens me to see small artisan places, located outside major food cities, struggle and so often fold.  I have seen a couple people out here try to do it right but they soon realized it was a losing battle and folded for reasons of cost, consuming of their entire lives, and trouble finding competent employees.  Lastly was the customers.  Very few were willing to spend extra $ on a genuine product.   The little shop concept that I run is dying all the time to big name brand products/stores/ eateries.    I figured out my retirement at 65 will be plenty to live on and with that I feel driven to continue what I do in a private setting.  I will not even need a salary. I can spread the money amoung a few employees.   It will feel good going to my grave knowing that I did a little part in keeping artisan culture alive and also employing disabled people for my staff.   I learned hands on from my grandparents, mother, her sisters.  Mastery for them came from years of being around the best.  I still feel I am not a master but after 50 years of working around great culinary people, I am on the road that is shorter than longer :)   I hooked up with great chefs, bread makers, and pizza makers, around the world who added much to my knowledge.  They did this out of passion because I so wanted to learn.  There was very little technical talk.  It was about the feel, smell, touch, of the product, and it had to be that way for it to come out right when done.  I hope I get to pass this on to someone(s) before I go and the culture lives on.......  Walter
« Last Edit: October 03, 2013, 12:07:45 PM by waltertore »


Offline PizzaPrint

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2013, 04:51:49 PM »
Hey Walter,

Cool post.  Nice to see that some genuine artisans exist still.

One thing I noticed in your post is that you mentioned that 90% of your business is from contract business.  Have you had a hard time letting people in your local area know about your business?

It would seem that if people knew about you in the first place (and were reminded about you frequently) then perhaps your business would be more diversified and not subject to having all of your eggs in one proverbial basket?

Just a thought.

Lisa

Offline waltertore

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2013, 09:01:05 PM »
Hey Walter,

Cool post.  Nice to see that some genuine artisans exist still.

One thing I noticed in your post is that you mentioned that 90% of your business is from contract business.  Have you had a hard time letting people in your local area know about your business?

It would seem that if people knew about you in the first place (and were reminded about you frequently) then perhaps your business would be more diversified and not subject to having all of your eggs in one proverbial basket?

Just a thought.

Lisa

Hi Lisa:  Thanks for the nice note!  I am not sure if you are familiar with my set up.  Long story short, I am a special education teacher and run a commercial bakery/pizzeria out of our high school.  I have a lot of posts here about it in the shop talk forum.  We are actually doing great and our 3 main clients- Newark City Schools, Granville Village Schools, and Denison University, are committed to using us.  I have a very cool gig with being able to help special needs students gain work skills.  I have 1 working outside of school with no support, 1 working in the school cafeteria, and 1 ready to start work.  Traditionally my population has almost a 100% unemployment rate.  I have complete creative control of the business and only have to break even to keep afloat. Anyway, thanks.  Walter
« Last Edit: October 24, 2013, 09:05:00 PM by waltertore »

Offline PizzaPrint

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2013, 07:00:18 AM »
Sorry Walter, I did not know your background.  I am new to the boards so haven't read too many older posts yet.

Sounds like you have a very cool gig - I am happy for you  :chef:

I (mistakenly) assumed that you just might have an issue with marketing.  So many owners I talk to assume that if the pizza is good that word of mouth will be all that they ever need.  Rarely is that the case.

Thanks for straightening me out!

Lisa.

Offline Jinhua

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2013, 08:01:49 AM »
Walter, thank you for sharing your experiences as a small artisan shop.  I live on the upper west side of Manhattan and we have been here since 1962.  In the 50 years I have seen our neighborhood lose almost all of the small artisan shops, from bakeries, delicatessens, shoe repairs, "Greek" coffee shops and hardware stores, to have them replaced by chain stores.  Broadway in the 70s-low 90s looks like a suburban shopping mall, and Columbus and Amsterdam avenues much the same.  One cause is rent.  The rents for these spaces has gone out of reach of these small shops.  Their prices and volumes cannot produce enough revenue to pay them.  Another cause is the lack of a second generation to go into the "family" business.  the younger generations gravitate toward higher paying professions and jobs and don't want to "toil in the vineyards" as their fathers or grandfathers have.  Unlike Europe, the family tradition is not something that Americans see as important to maintain.  The third reason is that there are fewer customers who recognize the quality of the small artisans and are willing to pay a premium for these products.  Yet, they pay premium prices for chain goods from Starbucks, Dominoes, Coach, Banana Republic etc.

Some exceptions seem to be the cheese making business, small artisanal pizzerias, and the small chef-driven restaurants.  They are finding locations that are affordable and customers who are willing to travel to them to buy their products. 

I applaud your dedication and generosity of spirit.  Would that there were more like you.

Offline waltertore

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2013, 09:17:12 AM »
Slow day here....  Lisa:  Thanks.  What do you do in the industry?  Walter

Jinhua:  My hat is off to you for keeping up the old ways!  My brother and sisters kids would never go into the artisan stuff.  They are all college bound and rich dreams.  I grew up in the Newark NJ area and spent a lot of time in NYC.  I haven't been to NYC in over 20 years.  It sounds like it has changed big time.  I went to college in my mid 30's after years of working with food and became a teacher.  Luckily I have been able to mutate this into running this bakery/pizzeria on a high school campus.  The pressures on me are more educational based than anything.  I have to legitimize what we do in academic terms.  That takes a lot of time and paperwork.  I can't believe an NY guy is saying many people are not reconizing quality stuff.  I deal with that in spades out here in central Ohio.  I spoke with a guy that loves our pizza yesterday.   He is born and raised here and told me although it is really great pizza, when he wants to get a feeling of home he goes to pizza hut or one of other like shops in town.   We are a product of what we were raised in.  Rents here are dirt cheap. I could get a 1,500 sq ft place for under a grand a month.  It is easier to get by here on all fronts.I have lived in the NYC area/Austin/sonoma County Ca/SF Bay area, Brussels.  These places were all off the chart expensive compared to here in OH.  Maybe the next artisan boom is going to come from the heartland of America because it is all shot to hell right now with factory work gone abroad.   One can be really creative at this time.  My friend got a 4 story brick/turn of the century building in downtown Newark OH for under 110k. It is restauraunt equipeted and 8,000 sq ft.  It is like the wild west out here for an entrepenuer with the right stuff.  Walter
« Last Edit: October 25, 2013, 09:20:36 AM by waltertore »

Offline PizzaPrint

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2013, 08:32:05 AM »
Slow day here....  Lisa:  Thanks.  What do you do in the industry?  Walter

Hi Walter.  This might sound self-promotional but you asked  ;D

We design, print and mail (if necessary) pizza box toppers, menus, postcards.  We work solely with the pizza industry so we can keep their costs low.

Lisa.

Offline waltertore

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2013, 09:44:51 AM »
Hi Walter.  This might sound self-promotional but you asked  ;D

We design, print and mail (if necessary) pizza box toppers, menus, postcards.  We work solely with the pizza industry so we can keep their costs low.

Lisa.

Hi Lisa:  Thanks for that information.  Currently we have the high school business class designing/printing our menues which we attatch to our pizza boxes.  If and when the need arises to look elsewhere I will contact you.  Walter

Offline PizzaPrint

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2013, 08:52:54 PM »
Hi Lisa:  Thanks for that information.  Currently we have the high school business class designing/printing our menues which we attatch to our pizza boxes.  If and when the need arises to look elsewhere I will contact you.  Walter

Thank you Walter.  Should you need any help with mailing, that is a huge part of what we do too - we can do so inexpensively.  My guess is though with your business model, that is not a service you need.

Offline waltertore

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2013, 11:55:30 AM »
Hi Lisa:  You are right.  For now we need no advertising.  We are at capacity and the part of me that wants to make more pizzas wants to bust out more but I am realizing that would mess things all up.  It seems every week we get calls to cater a large breakfast, health fair, make this and that for a couple hundred people, on top of our already busy day.   Life is pretty darn good really.  We do no advertising, are in a locked high school where you have to use an intercom to get in, have no direct phone line, and are only open during school hours on the school calendar.  No nights, no weekends, off all summer, 2 weeks at christmas, 1 week at spring break, 3 days for thanksgiving, and only work 185 days a year.   We slow down around lunch time and then we make our pizzas at a nice pace.  I figure if we can do this good with all the above mentioned barriers that when I retire it should be pretty easy to run a very small, 1 size pie, limitied toppings, pizzeria/artisan bread place.  I love the idea of bakery and pizzeria under 1 roof.  My current venture is proving this to be a good thing.   Walter
« Last Edit: October 27, 2013, 11:58:30 AM by waltertore »


Offline gabaghool

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2013, 01:36:42 PM »
sorry...but, IF I READ THIS RIGHT, i disagree....artisan shops are NOW at their most prominent.  I may not last long...but there are MORE artisan shops open now that ever that I could remember...and that has to do with NEAPOLITAN STYLE and the rise in PIZZA in general.  10 years ago, there were FAR less single owner, high end ARTISAN pizza places.  Now, this might not last long....and thats my guess.....but there WILL be several places, exceptional places than establish a foothold in the food service business....but a TON more will shut there doors.


Again, I hope I read this right.

Offline waltertore

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2013, 01:49:29 PM »
sorry...but, IF I READ THIS RIGHT, i disagree....artisan shops are NOW at their most prominent.  I may not last long...but there are MORE artisan shops open now that ever that I could remember...and that has to do with NEAPOLITAN STYLE and the rise in PIZZA in general.  10 years ago, there were FAR less single owner, high end ARTISAN pizza places.  Now, this might not last long....and thats my guess.....but there WILL be several places, exceptional places than establish a foothold in the food service business....but a TON more will shut there doors.


Again, I hope I read this right.

I guess everything is realative.  I grew up in the 50's-60's in the Newark NJ area.  It was all about Artisan.  Yes, there are holdouts but besides the wood fired scene, most have declined to near extinction.  Now I live in the Columbus Ohio area and I am not sure of the  history of artisan shops here but compared to what I grew up with, it is a near ghost town.  Also a lot of places calling themselves artisan are that in name only.  Their products are made by inexperienced people.  I grew up in family business scenes with people from the old country(s).  They brought it straight here and as their kids, people like me, aged to where they could tell their parents they are not going to do this work, quit and most went on to college and less manual labor jobs.  Young kids today learn on youtube for much of their artisan.  IMO one has to learn from a master, in the flesh, to carry on the true artisan tradition.  People want recipes and how to videos.  This will never replace working in a real place with real masters. I played music for 20 odd years full time and mentored under the blues greats.  I lived, toured, imershed myself in the blues world.  Today there is hardly a blues scene left.  It seems the young kids wanted to go into more glamorus kinds of music and the scene is now pretty much history.  Our culture wants things fast. Make me a master in 2 weeks.  We don't want to spend a lifetime working on mastering one thing.   Become a black belt in 5 years in the usa and it is just something to put on your wall.  Then on to the next mastering.....  In Japan it can take a lifetime and when one of the USA, bought it in a cracker jack box, black belts comes up against a master from  Japan, it is an embarassment.  I studied martial arts for 30 years under a japaneses master.  I never devoted enough time to it to call myself anything but a dabbler by Japanese standards, but by american standards I would have many degrees of black belt on me.  America is the land of I got the money so give me what I want right now :) In the big cities artisan food businesses will always be present, but the numbers will probably never equal what they were in the 50-70's.  This is my observation after 50 plus years around the artisan world living in the NYC area, Austin, TX, SF Bay Area, Sonoma County Ca, Brussels Belguim, and living/touring Europe for 20 years with my music.  In Europe one sees true Artisans as an everyday thing.  Generations deep.  I learned a good deal about bread from the bread shop owner on our corner in Brussels.  That is something I rarely see here in the USA.   Walter
« Last Edit: October 29, 2013, 02:14:44 PM by waltertore »

Offline gabaghool

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2013, 01:59:52 PM »
Well,  there you go.....I was born in 1960.....so, I wasnt involved in this business till 1978......so the single owner pizza places YOU experienced were before my time...and it makes sense...since the second world war really introduced pizza to the usa....and most of the owners were private business men. You experienced the growth of pizza.  I grew up during the CHAIN growth of pizza.   My first taste of artisan pies is this growth spurt.....consisting of neapolitan pizza and artisan versions of NY pizza.  I understand what you are saying now.  Thank you.

Offline waltertore

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2013, 02:11:27 PM »
Well,  there you go.....I was born in 1960.....so, I wasnt involved in this business till 1978......so the single owner pizza places YOU experienced were before my time...and it makes sense...since the second world war really introduced pizza to the usa....and most of the owners were private business men. You experienced the growth of pizza.  I grew up during the CHAIN growth of pizza.   My first taste of artisan pies is this growth spurt.....consisting of neapolitan pizza and artisan versions of NY pizza.  I understand what you are saying now.  Thank you.

I am only 10 years older than you.  The chain thing took off after I left NJ with my music.   That was in the mid 70's.  The chains were there but nobody in Essex County where I grew up frequented them.  The good news is people are begining to get sick of mass produced food. Here in Central OH. we have been slowly developing a great business with no advertising, inside a locked high school, no direct phone, only open school days- no nights, weekends-off whenever you see a kid off, and you have to order at least a day to a week in advance.   This week we are catering several affairs for 100-200 people and again next week.  People are actually navigating all the hurdles to reach us to buy our pizzas, breads, baked goods.  As I was typing this a man walked in and ordered a load of baguettes.  The rennisance of artisan may come from the heartland where rents/buying buildings is cheap, red tape is minimual, and a depressed economy has created a can/frozen food, chain food, culture.  It is exciting to be doing so well and I am a school teacher and don't have the headaches, long hours, etc, that an artisan owner has.  Walter

Offline gabaghool

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2013, 02:23:11 PM »
Again walter
I own a pizza place...so I can AT LEAST understand your pizzas....but, your breads......they look as good as any Ive seen....that you could achieve that quality in your situation....phenomenal......I constantly shake my head in disbelief......and admiration

Offline waltertore

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #15 on: October 29, 2013, 03:34:32 PM »
Again walter
I own a pizza place...so I can AT LEAST understand your pizzas....but, your breads......they look as good as any Ive seen....that you could achieve that quality in your situation....phenomenal......I constantly shake my head in disbelief......and admiration

thanks!  What sort of set do you have-ovens, volume, concept?  It is great to see someone continuing the artisan way.   The breads are sort of a combination of what I learned from my mother and grandmother, the bread maker in Brussels, and my own tinkering to make recipes that taste very good and still can be made by people with cognitive disabilities.  We cook them in the pizza ovens - blodgett 1000's - with a tray for steam.  I am in a very special place right now.  All I have to do is break even and not get the treasurer of our district too upset with my sometimes shoddy bookeeping.  The breaking even has been easy.  The bookeeping has been a big challenge.  I never ran a place before.  I was just a passionate worker.   I hope to continue this concept of working with special needs people when I retire with a small pizzeria/bakery.  I like them both under 1 roof.   Walter

Offline gabaghool

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #16 on: October 29, 2013, 04:06:37 PM »
Your organization is very commendable.  I cant even BEGIN to imagine the hardships you must face every day.....and the fact that you face them AND put out the product you do is, simply......amazing.  You have MUCH MORE GOING ON THERE....then simply an eatery...but I don't have to tell you that.

We exclusively use Bodgett 100....120.000 btu's.  But, honestly, Im beginning to see the advantage of ELECTRICAL ovens.   Scott has always pushed them.  At first, I thought they were a joke....simply an oven that could be put into use for a lot less money than gas....but now.....with the higher temp possibilites AND the more even heat distribution...I think they are the way to go........IF you are looking to push temps to 650 and above......lately, Ive been questioning that ....

We are a busy operation.  My pizza section is run mostly by my partner.....and as with almost ALL partnerships.......its not exactly how I would do it.  But, I am blessed and very fortunate to be putting out about 5000 pizzas a week.....about 20% of my business.  Ive been in this business for almost 30 years......and its the first time I've made real money.   So its a bit of a reprieve.  I would like to put out a new concept, one where I control pizza production, as I have accumulated many new ideas over the last 7 years and would like to see them in action.  We make a good solid pizza.....3 day fermentation, ALL FRESH toppings...fresh sauteed spinach, fresh roasted and peeled peppers, slice mushrooms, homemade sausage, fresh in house ground beef.....it has its plusses....but it COULD be so much better...........

AND , i would love to produce those baguettes you are doing.........absolutely LOVE to do it.

Offline waltertore

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2013, 05:19:36 PM »
Sometimes I wish I was just running a small pizzeria with a few disabled people as employees and be long gone from the public school BS.  I am typing this from my desk.  Tonight is a parent teacher conference night 4-7pm. I never have anyone come but have to be here so thanks for the correspondence.  It is making my night pass enjoyably! Congragulations on making some $!  That is a feat in the food industry.  Your side pizza venture sounds right up my alley- full artistic control.   You are making more pizzas a week than I can fathom!  I have never worked with an electric oven.  That must be tough with the 1000's.  How many do you have?  What size pie do you make?    I love them because I don't want to cook above 575 and do low volume.   I figure you have a bunch of them to put out 5k pizzas a week.   This new craze to emulate wood fired in gas deck ovens is not for me.   I spent a couple days working with the BP forno bravo/classico (can't remember the exact name) open front deck oven with back gas burner and stone back/roof.  I was not impressed with it much.  I am old school and our stack of 1000's is great.  I like to take my time with making pies.  At this point  in my life I would never want to make pizzas at ninja speed and the 2 of them are more than enough for my needs.  We do pizza on the top deck and breads, bagels, on the lower and if we  have a large pizza order run both at pizza temp.  I remember the old guys moving at a steady easy speed.  That is my model.  I find the 1000's don't like 650 degrees - uneven cooking on top/bottom.  Their sweet spot is 500-575 for the pies I do.   

 I am of the 1 man show and prefer to do it without adult employees.  I had a full time adult aide but she was more hassle than help so I ran her off to another room and now go solo.  I assess my students skills and put them in jobs that they can do exactly as I want it done.  So in a sense they are all extensions of me.  I have 1 girl Paige who makes pizzas.  She can do it all on her own the way I want it done.  The great thing about the populaltion I work with is they don't bring much "adult baggage/attitude" with them.  Many have behavior problems but I am good at ironing that stuff out.  Once that is done they are like a copy machine of what I want out of them and they love it.  I am having good success placing them in food establishments that have management that is willing to go through the adjustment phase because they know once that is done they have a dedicated employee for life.  This summer I spent an afternoon with Anthony of Una Pizza (SF).  We are of the same cut of cloth with the 1 man show thing/NJ stuff.  He has the steady easy groove down. His operation is a pleasure to watch- pure groove.  You take your hat off to me, and I have to take mine off to you.  I would last about 10 minutes with most adult employees.  I would kill somebody.  I have no paitence with most entry level workers trips.   I could teach that bread easy.   If you ever are out in the Columbus OH area please let me know.   Here is a couple of short videos  of my pizza girl Paige.  She was nervous as heck in front of the camera and normally does a much better job of making a pie.  She prefers not to toss.  That is ok because she does a good job hand stretching.   She works 25 hours a week at Denison University for Bon Appetit making pizzas/prepping food for the chefs.   These were the BP ovens I worked with getting her use to them.  Lots of money but not impressed compared to the 1000's.  Paige can't tell you what day it is or what money really means but she can work with dough.  Walter

<a href="http://youtu.be/b5-5AxX6EJc" target="_blank" class="aeva_link bbc_link new_win">http://youtu.be/b5-5AxX6EJc</a>


<a href="http://youtu.be/ORqe62-9hZ8" target="_blank" class="aeva_link bbc_link new_win">http://youtu.be/ORqe62-9hZ8</a>
« Last Edit: October 29, 2013, 06:31:36 PM by waltertore »

Offline scott123

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2013, 06:28:15 PM »
We exclusively use Bodgett 100....120.000 btu's.  But, honestly, Im beginning to see the advantage of ELECTRICAL ovens.   Scott has always pushed them.

Have I?  :) There was a period where I was fairly pro electric, and I guess if someone wants to guarantee an extremely fast bake such as less than 3 minutes, then electric is the way to go, but I'm a fan of some gas decks, such as the Marsal MB and the old Blodget 1000s that Walter is using.

I find the 1000's don't like 650 degrees - uneven cooking on top/bottom.  Their sweet spot is 500-575 for the pies I do.

Actually, almost all gas deck ovens have heat balance issues at 650.  It's the nature of a bottom heat source scenario.  Some ovens are a bit better when it comes to balance, though, such as the Marsal MB.  They add a brick ceiling to help a bit with the top heat and they use less conductive decks that bake the bottom of the pizza relatively slower.  I know you're happy with your 1000s and your current bake times, but if you ever wanted to play around with shorter bake times at higher temps, you could help balance out the oven with different stones. A brick ceiling works beautifully but is most likely too difficult to add to an oven like yours.  One thing you could do, though, is take stainless steel sheet and lower the ceiling- that will go a long way in helping balance.

Not that you're interested  :) I'm just throwing the idea out there in case someone else wants to push their ovens to higher temps.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2013, 06:31:42 PM by scott123 »

Offline waltertore

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Re: the demise of the small artisan shops around our land?
« Reply #19 on: October 29, 2013, 06:42:08 PM »
Have I?  :) There was a period where I was fairly pro electric, and I guess if someone wants to guarantee an extremely fast bake such as less than 3 minutes, then electric is the way to go, but I'm a fan of some gas decks, such as the Marsal MB and the old Blodget 1000s that Walter is using.

Actually, almost all gas deck ovens have heat balance issues at 650.  It's the nature of a bottom heat source scenario.  Some ovens are a bit better when it comes to balance, though, such as the Marsal MB.  They add a brick ceiling to help a bit with the top heat and they use less conductive decks that bake the bottom of the pizza relatively slower.  I know you're happy with your 1000s and your current bake times, but if you ever wanted to play around with shorter bake times at higher temps, you could help balance out the oven with different stones. A brick ceiling works beautifully but is most likely too difficult to add to an oven like yours.  One thing you could do, though, is take stainless steel sheet and lower the ceiling- that will go a long way in helping balance.

Not that you're interested  :) I'm just throwing the idea out there in case someone else wants to push their ovens to higher temps.

Hi Scott:  It would be a custom job to have stones added to the roof.  I will keep the stainless idea in mind.  Our head custodian likes to tinker with metal.  I wouldn't mind setting up a temporary ceiling to see what happens.  Getting Chuck to find free time is the main problem.  We are in a new school and all the new stuff is breaking down, malfunctioning like crazy-heat in the summer- a/c in the winter........   I tried the BP forno classico open face gas oven at Denison University.  Bon Appetit put it in brand new.  It goes to 650 and is 120k btu's under the stone and I think another 80kbtu on the back side.  Their is a gas burner exposed to the air along the back wall.  The ceiling is brick lined and the sides have the BP system that lets you adjust top/bottom heat.  THe oven goes to 650.  The deck area is smaller than the blodgett 1000 and I found it was a mess of hot and cool spots.  I pushed it to about 600 and it took near  constant monitoring and I think I started to freak out the poor lady running the oven who has no real pizza experience.  She like 500 degrees.  If I push the blodgetts above 575 it gets nasty.  550 is the sweet spot with low volume production and 575 works best for busier times.   The recovery time on these ovens is great and we don't need to rotate pies.  Ours are the original stones that contain asbesctos.  They really make a big difference in even heating and recovery.  That was the downside of the BP-new stones.   I think if I was to jump ship it would be to a pure wood burning set up and that would mean I would have to go to SF and hang around Anthony and ask to be his apprentice.  But I am the old NJ type who loves the sound of those doors banging closed and open  :D Walter
« Last Edit: October 29, 2013, 06:45:35 PM by waltertore »