When Adam Gidlow and his wife Jennifer opened On The Rise in Cleveland Heights a dozen years ago, they were taking a blind leap of faith. The close-knit eastside community already had Zoss and Stone Oven, two wonderful and much-loved bakeries, and only time would tell if there was room for another.
"We picked a location in a neighborhood that was surrounded by families," explains Gidlow, who lives just three blocks from the bakery.
After spending years as a professional artisan baker in Chicago and Boston, Gidlow was used to early mornings and long days. He would start baking at 3:30 in the morning, and before long a thick layer of condensation would build up on the front windows of the adorable little bakeshop. Customers who would pop in for a cup of coffee or a croissant on their way to work would invariably strike up a conversation with the flour-covered proprietor.
"We were very approachable business owners who had our hands right in it," he recalls of the earliest days. "We were always willing to talk to customers about breads. It's a pretty mom-and-pop type place."
Paul Minnillo was the first big restaurateur to recognize the quality of Gidlow's breads, quickly adding them to his bread basket at Baricelli Inn. Doug Katz came next, Gidlow believes, followed by Zack Bruell and Michael Symon. These days, a dozen fine restaurants get their breads and rolls from On The Rise.
"It's a good way to introduce people to something they might not go out of their way to buy," Gidlow explains. "If they're spreading bone marrow on a baguette at Lolita, they might come to the bakery and ask about the bread."
Walk down Fairmount Boulevard these days—a dozen years in—and you'll see bicyclists with baguettes sticking out of their baskets, chocolate-stained children munching away on fresh baked cookies, and lines snaking clear out the front door during lunch.
"We've really become a community gathering spot," Gidlow says. "It's a great feeling to see that. And it's been all word of mouth."