How Merzbacher’s Bread Bakery Runs Philly’s Cheesesteak Scene

“We have vents that vent out oven exhaust, and people will wander around until they find an entrance and ask ‘do you sell bread here?’” says Merzbacher’s bakery owner Pete Merzbacher. “I don’t think every food does that, but bread does.”

Merzbacher’s is a wholesale artisan bread bakery that produces 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of dough every week, turning it into highly coveted loaves, potato rolls, baguettes, and a take on an English muffin dubbed “the Philly Muffin.” At pop-up sandwich shop Frizwit, chef Ari Miller says the bread he selects from Merzbacher’s is key to making an excellent Philly cheesesteak. “The structure of the chew of this roll is really what holds it all together, and then the inside is what soaks up all of that meat juice,” Miller says. “You need a roll that’s going to be a sponge but also be a container, and it does that with a lot of flavor.”

Before the pandemic, 75 to 80 percent of Merzbacher’s sales came from sales to restaurants. With restaurant limitations and closures over the past year, that number has moved closer to 50 percent, with the other 50 percent coming from grocery stores. At Philly area grocery store Giant Food Store, for example, Merzbacher’s bread can be found right among items from national brands like Pepperidge Farm and Thomas’ English Muffins. “What I’m trying to do is make a great product accessible to more people whether you live in Philly or the suburbs,” Merzbacher says. Based on growing demand for Merzbacher’s bread from super markets and restaurants alike, his plan seems to be working.

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