SPRING LAKE, Mich. — For an establishment named Village Baker, which invokes impressions of coziness, the reach and reputation of the place has swelled well beyond the confines of Spring Lake.
The pretzels alone are known and loved far and wide.
"The pretzel might actually be responsible for the greatest single source of revenue of this whole bakery,” says co-owner Oran Rankin, who calls himself the Village Baker. “You know, on a typical weekday, we'll make three or 400 of them, but on busy weekends, we'll make sometimes 1000 of them on one day.”
And that’s just the pretzels.
When we first opened, we imagined me at the cash register up front helping customers in Oran in the back baking,” notes Sara Rathbun, who calls herself the Baker’s Wife (which she is). “now, during our slow months, we have about 60 employees.” They even hired a pastry chef from California. "She makes the most delectable made-from-scratch products."
You’ll find breads from Village Baker at stores spread throughout West Michigan. “I think the stores that we find have a real small-town feel,” Sara says. “You'll find our bread at a Ken's Market, Kingma’s, the Bridge Street Market downtown, and Sobe Meats, and the Fresh Market in Ada, but we do have some bigger grocers like Forest Hills Foods and D&W on 28th Street.”
The bakery’s reputation for breads and pastries and the variety of product lines were key to the survival of Village Baker throughout the pandemic. The café, a major part of the operation, was closed when all restaurants closed, but eight new grocery stores began to carry their breads. Moreover, a bakery is an ideal takeout situation, and the customers kept coming.
Today, Village Baker is regaining a sense of normalcy. The café is back open, but it’s so popular that reservations are required. And customers are coming from far and wide.
“The people in Spring Lake consider us their bakery,” Sara says. “But people come from Muskegon. They're meeting with people in Grand Rapids, people coming from Holland, and we're kind of a good meeting point for them to come and have dinner together.”
Sara and Oran’s pride in what they do comes out in everything they mention about Village Baker. “Our restaurant really is a source of pride for us because we have really good quality food all made from scratch,” notes Sara. “If you get the lobster Cobb Benedict, the English muffin is going to be made from scratch, and the lobster is real lobster. Our pancakes are the best you'll ever have. And the pizzas cannot be matched.”
And the gift shop just adds to the possibilities.