Flourish Bakery — a culinary training and rehab program — finds a new home in Midvale

(Kathy Stephenson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Flourish Bakery in Midvale will soon have a retail store where the public can purchase cookies, cakes, breads and other items made by the interns in its job training program.

Midvale • The kitchen boasts 3,200 square feet of cooking space. There’s a giant oven, commercial mixers, walk-in refrigerators and a long butcher block table for making pumpkin bread, bacon chipotle caramel corn and rosemary lemon sables.

But that’s not the best thing about Flourish Bakery’s new home in Midvale, said Executive Director Aimee Altizer. “It will allows us to hire new interns and continue to grow.”

That’s something the nonprofit bakery — a culinary training and rehabilitation program for people recovering from addiction or incarceration — has not been able to do for nearly a year.

Flourish Bakery was told last October it had to move out of the commercial kitchen it had leased at Salt Lake Community College’s South City campus. School officials said the space was needed for its own educational and catering programs.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Aimee Altizer, executive director of Flourish Bakery, gives intern Dennis Sisneros a high five on Nov. 26, 2019, after finishing a large order of Thanksgiving pies.

It was going to be difficult to find a commercial kitchen with office and classroom space in Utah’s competitive real estate market. Add to that the need to be near public transportation, as the bakery interns usually have lost their driver licenses or don’t have vehicles to get to and from work.

And then the recipe got complicated by a pandemic.

Flourish Bakery operated in a temporary space at Salt Lake City’s Odyssey House while it looked for a permanent home, Altizer said. It continued to make and sell cookies, pies and breads — as well as soups, sandwiches and other savory items — at farmers markets, from its food truck and through its website.

The unknown future — and the small space — was difficult for intern Dennis Sisneros, who has been sober for nearly two years. “It’s been tough,” he said, “and pushed our patience.”

But it also reminded him — once again — how to face challenges.

It was the coronavirus shutdown that ultimately led Flourish to the commercial kitchen at 752 W. Center St. in Midvale (behind the Cricket Wireless store).

(Kathy Stephenson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Flourish Bakery's food truck specializes in sandwiches, breads and sweets.

When large events were canceled, the catering company that had once leased the space was forced to close, said Altizer. The building came on the rental market at the end of July, and by mid-August Flourish Bakery had signed a new contract.

“The spot picked us,” she said, adding that it came with everything the program needed, from storage and classroom space to commercial appliances. “It’s the greatest gift that we don’t have to purchase kitchen equipment.”

It also has a central location — on a UTA bus line and five blocks from a TRAX station. That will allow the bakery to expand its customer base into the south valley of Salt Lake County, said Altizer, a trained pastry chef who worked at several Utah restaurants and resorts before becoming an Episcopal priest.

She combined her passions two years ago when she helped launch Flourish Bakery with five interns, two instructors and several volunteers.

To be hired, interns must be in recovery, attend therapy and addiction-recovery meetings, and do the other hard work needed to remain sober. In return, they work 32 to 40 hours a week at Flourish Bakery, earning $12 an hour. This allows them to pay rent, buy food and cover other expenses while also receiving job training.

After they complete the program, interns participate in an externship at a restaurant, bakery or ski resort. After the real-world experience, they are ready to get a job in the industry.

The program operates on donations and sales, which should get a boost when its new retail store opens to the public sometime soon. The space will work especially well this Thanksgiving for the bakery’s annual “Pie it Forward” campaign.

“We are excited,” Altizer said, “about no longer being nomads.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) The staff of Flourish Bakery work long hours to finish their large order of pies before the Thanksgiving holiday on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019.