Barely a month after the storied Log Cabin Bakery closed down, Rudeboys food truck operator Matt Melvin has moved in.
His food truck, which included a mobile bakery, was comparatively large and well-designed, but in the old Log Cabin building at 2401 Second Ave. N., he’ll have 5,000 square feet between the basement and the ground floor, out of which he intends to operate a wholesale bakery, with a retail shop and cafe up front.
“We don’t have much staff and we don’t have much money, but we’re going to make it work,” Melvin said.
The wholesale baking operation will be called Three Birds Bakery, and the cafe, just inside the main entrance at Second Avenue and North 24th Street, will wear the food truck name — Rudeboys Bistro.
Street kids in 1950s and ’60s Jamaica were called “rude boys.” Three Birds is a nod to Melvin’s three children, as well to “Three Little Birds,” the Bob Marley song.
“We try to keep everything a little reggae here,” Melvin said.
He hopes to have the bakery in full operation within two weeks and then open the bistro late this year or early in 2018. He plans to start by offering breakfast and lunch, eventually expanding to dinner and late-night coffee, until maybe 10 p.m.
A big part of his plan is to make the bistro a new community gathering spot for downtown Billings. The need for such a place is more acute than ever, he said, what with the closure of the Log Cabin and more recently the Good Earth Market.
Within a couple of weeks, he said, he and others involved in the business will visit all residences and businesses within a block of the bakery, introducing themselves and inviting people to stop by.
“Then we’ll just keep going, block by block,” he said. And since a lot of nearby neighbors, including residents of Sage Tower, kitty-corner from the business, probably don’t have a lot of money, Melvin is hoping to develop some kind of “community discount” that allows people to buy bread at 5 or 10 percent above cost.
“We really want to focus on building something here for the people in the neighborhood,” Melvin said.
His expansion into a brick-and-mortar location comes not too long after the opening of a pastry bakery on Montana Avenue, and the imminent opening, according to the Gazette, of a French bread bakery whose plans we reported on last January. And then there is the well-established Annex Coffeehouse and Bakery on Minnesota Avenue, which makes breads, burritos, quiche and all manner of sweet treats.
Three Birds Bakery will continue to make the breads Melvin was already making — ciabatta, boule (traditional French farmers bread), a demi baguette and a flatbread — and will add brioche. In the retail area and bistro, he’ll have croissants, muffins, cinnamon and caramel rolls, a large brioche doughnut and other pastries.
For lunch, he’ll have items similar to the food truck menu, mostly wraps, sandwiches and salads.
He hopes to hire three or four bakers and so far has two employees, both of whom have lots of restaurant experience. Phill Surratt will be his general manager and Ryan Hall, who is now helping get everything ready, will probably manage the kitchen.
Melvin is leasing the building and all the baking equipment from Mike Schaer, the founder of Computers Unlimited and a big property owner on nearby Montana Avenue.
“He gave us a hell of a deal to get us off and running,” Melvin said.
Melvin is most excited about all the baking equipment he now has at his disposal, including a large proofer, a huge mixer, a doughnut mixer, a bun press, a big sheeter (used to make croissants), doughnut fryers and an oven the size of a walk-in closet, which Melvin said he could use to make 400 baguettes an hour.
Melvin heard about the Log Cabin being for lease from Joanie Swords, the owner of Harper & Madison, a cafe and bakery, where he often parked his food truck this summer on that days that Harper and Madison was closed. Melvin said he was in talks with the real estate agent, Emilio Campos, a week after the Log Cabin closed.
He also plans to keep the food truck operating, especially because he loved hitting the music festival circuit around Montana this summer, where he got a good feel for what Montanans like and don’t like.
The main thing he learned is that we are, apparently, a pretty smart bunch.
“People like real, quality food, lots of it and cheap,” he said.