Brown Bear Bakery prepares to open shop in Over-the-Rhine

Posted at 11:22 AM, May 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-15 11:22:19-04

CINCINNATI -- After a year-and-a-half in the making, Brown Bear Bakery is projected to open its first retail location in June at 116 E. 13th St. in Over-the-Rhine.

Brown Bear Bakery owners Blair Fornshell and Chaske Haberkos. (Photo by Grace Yek.)

Home-based baker Blair Fornshell and her fiancé, Chaske Haberkos, jointly own the bakery. Fornshell is the founder, head baker and creative force, while Haberkos handles marketing, communication and even delivery.

Originally from Ross, Ohio, Fornshell got her love for baking from her “maw maw” (grandmother), who loved to bake pies using fresh ingredients from her garden.

Fornshell said the shop will prominently feature pies: While the bakery will offer a wide range of treats, including a rotational seasonal offering, expect all manner of pies, including an assortment of cream pies, chess pies and a variety of fruit pies.

Salty chocolate chip cookies from Brown Bear Bakery. (Provided)

“Pie is my favorite thing in the world,” she said.

Items like coffee cake, brownies, savory scones, biscuits and tarts also will join the lineup. Look for Fornshell’s specialty salted chocolate chip cookies, made with 72 percent dark chocolate.

'Why wouldn’t I want to do this forever?'

For as long as she could remember, Fornshell baked for her family and neighbors.

“You could see how happy they were when you delivered them,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I want to do this forever?”

She went on to pursue a degree in communications from the University of Cincinnati, but her mother’s death while she was in college awakened her resolve to follow her first love: baking. After graduation, Fornshell went on to earn a degree in baking and pastry from the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State, and in 2012 took her baked treats to market for the first time at City Flea’s Holiday Market.

“We sold out in two hours,” she said.

She soon began taking orders for events, parties and coffee shops while growing her market rounds. Grants from Over-the-Rhine Chamber and the Ed & Joann Hubert Family Foundation helped pave the way for her brick-and-mortar location, she said.

Brown Bear Bakery's future location in Over-the-Rhine (Photo by Grace Yek.)

She found the spot on 13th Street in November 2015, and both she and Haberkos have been working on the space since. The couple has navigated a sea of paperwork, structural considerations and equipment design – the business end of the craft.

“It’s still a learning process,” Haberkos said, “But baking is the last thing you do.”

See and smell the goods 

Seating is still being finalized, but Fornshell envisions having seating for 12 to 20 inside. She said there will also be seating outside, along the sidewalk in front of the bakery.

“The sidewalks are long, and we have a beautiful tree outside,” she said.

Lemon beet chess pie from Brown Bear Bakery. (Provided)

The bakery has a preparation kitchen that’s within view of the patrons. The finishing kitchen is open and customers can enjoy watching – and smelling – baked goods getting pulled out of the oven.

Not unlike Fornshell’s handcrafted pies and pastries, the green tiles by the counter are also handmade. She collaborated with Christie Goodfellow of CGCERAMICS to roll out, form and finish the tiles by hand.

Fornshell envisions teaching classes and starting a monthly pie club at the bakery. She also wants her shop to be the dessert-and-coffee venue for the after-dinner crowd in the area.

“I’m excited to be a part of the community, excited to be part of something bigger as opposed to just working from home,” Fornshell said. “I just want this to be a comforting, happy place for people to come to.”

Brown Bear Bakery

Address: 116 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine

Projected opening: June