At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, many home cooks began a baking adventure — either to feed their families or simply make good use of their time at home. Tripp Mims, a professional chef and hobby baker in Salt Lake City, used the time to start baking and selling artisan bread, and the venture has recently risen into a flourishing business.
“Mims SLC was born out of necessity,” says Mims, who was furloughed from his full-time sous chef job at Alamexo in the spring as the pandemic forced shutdowns in Utah and nationwide. But the business also stemmed from Mims and his family believing that food brings communities together — even in the worst of times — to inspire lasting change and build a better future.
Mims and his wife and co-founder, Thy Vu, say they started gifting their home-baked bread to friends and family to keep busy while he was out of work. But they quickly began contemplating the possibility of turning Mims’ baking hobby into a sustainable business.
Although Mims was not formally trained as a baker, he’s been experimenting with baking for nearly a decade. “At work, we were given the option to make whatever we wanted for family meal for the staff,” he says. “And when I made it, it would always be cornbreads or pizza — something involving baking.”
Vu used Instagram to launch Mims SLC, utilizing her skills as a marketing manager at Salt Lake Community College. In just a few weeks, after settling on the name and coming up with a logo, she posted the first photo of Mims’ bread on @mims_slc. Vu took their first bread orders via Instagram comments and messages, and before long, her social media marketing experiment seemed to be taking off.
As Mims SLC grew over the past year, the couple launched an official website (MimsSLC.com) that now accepts orders, but Vu says she still enjoys the interactions she has with customers on Instagram — many of whom have continued placing orders since Mims SLC’s inception.
Aside from getting the new opportunity through Mims SLC to engage with a community of foodies, Mims and Vu have also used baking to make a difference for local organizations they care about.
In 2020, Mims SLC ran several successful bake sales and fundraisers benefiting Salt Lake Valley Covid Mutual Aid and the Utah Refugee Connection, an organization that holds special significance for Vu.
Vu’s parents are Vietnamese refugees who fled the country by boat in the early ’80s. “They landed here in Salt Lake and this is where I was born and raised, but I know from watching them how much work goes into honoring your heritage, while also trying to be a part of something new,” Vu says. “Refugees were really hard hit with this pandemic, and we wanted to do something to help.”
The couple are proud of their ability to give their customers, friends and family a way to get involved. “Activism shows up in many different ways,” Vu says. “A lot of times, people think activism is taking to the streets, but it’s really about these community fundraisers and finding our own way to do that. Honestly, it can be more impactful that way as well.”
For the founders of Mims SLC, being active community builders is about providing fresh-baked bread to those in need and who find comfort in it. “Providing that type of feeling for people is important,” Vu says.
Mims SLC is currently operated out of the couple’s home, as a cottage food establishment, and their microbakery setup allows them to deliver orders directly to customers. They offer five types of bread: a baguette ($3.50); classic sourdough, an everything loaf, country white and seeded polenta, each available in three different sizes (prices range from $5 to $12) for pickup or delivery Tuesday through Saturday.
Orders have grown from 40 to 50 loaves of bread each week to 400 to 500 items per week, and Mims and Vu are beginning to look at the long-term possibilities of this project. “I’m hoping that we operate out of our cottage bakery for a year or two, and then move into a physical space,” says Mims.
In the meantime, he says he will continue to add new products, like salted buckwheat chocolate cookies ($7 for two, $14 for four) and brioche “sourdoughnies” (sourdough doughnuts, four for $14, available on Mondays only) to the mix as well as additional bread and specialty items.
The flavors of Mims SLC’s breads range from the tangy classic sourdough to a nutty seeded polenta filled with pepitas, sesame, polenta and acai seed, all folded into an oat crust.
The country white, one of Mims SLC’s original products, makes a great side for any number of meals that feature sauces for dipping. It also comes in a 4-inch bread bowl size that’s perfect for dishing up winter soups and stews.
The everything loaf, another original product that continues to be a top seller, has a crispy, crunchy crust coated in a savory mix of black and white sesame seeds, dried garlic and onion, poppy seeds and salt.
On Instagram, customer Tanya Lelanuja left a glowing review of the bread: “Nothing better than a steaming hot bowl of soup and some fresh bread on a cold day. Mims SLC’s everything bread was the perfect addition to my white bean and tomato stew.”
Vu explains that one of their most successful outcomes has been “building this kind of micro community where we break bread with one another,” she says. “Not to be cheesy, but that’s really important to us — seeing a bunch of strangers come together and their only connection point being our bread.”
Heather L. King owns www.slclunches.com and can be found on social media @slclunches.