Photo by Shelby Lum

From Pop-up to Permanent

Jonas Laughlin kept an eye on the timer sitting next to him. He was babysitting muffins and couldn’t forget about the batch that was in the oven.

Fresh from its grand opening, the storefront of Laughlin’s Bakery boasts just three small tables and a counter full of less-than-common baked goods. The madeleines, a small shell-shaped cake, had already sold out for the day. Laughlin’s though was not born from a culinary student in the traditional sense, but from a musical student following a successful Kickstarter campaign over the summer.

Laughlin had been a professional opera singer, traveling the globe and snacking on delectable European pastries. (Isn’t that what everyone did in Europe? he joked.) A severe cold, though, ended up making its way to his throat and paralyzed his right vocal fold, killing his singing career in one fatal blow.

“I lost my voice so I needed something to do in lieu of singing and that became baking,” Laughlin said. “Everyone always looks at it as a complete 180 but the truth is it’s exactly same thing as music.”

Baking became an alternative creative outlet and a new form of expression for Laughlin.

“If you think of an opera singer, we all get this piece of music, and you and I might be the same voice type looking at exactly the same thing, but it’s going to sound completely different because it organically comes from us in different ways…and I guess a recipe is the same thing,” Laughlin said. “The organic process of creation is the exact same as singing.”

His bakery on Second Avenue specializes in European baked goods, many like the ones he tried while traveling as an opera singer, but he also mixes in American specialties, some of which his grandmother would make him while growing up in the South. The counter of the bakery is filled with madeleines, croissants, springerle cookies and muffins.

“I’m an American. I grew up in the South so there’s a whole heritage of American goods, especially baked goods that I find just as fascinating as European.”

Creating the storefront and transitioning from a pop-up to a permanent entity took the support of the local community at large. Debbie Neimeth, owner of Happy Go Lucky Home and Happy Go Lucky Her in the Short North, shared Laughlin’s soft spot for European and especially French fare. She heard of his baking prowess through one of her store managers and before she knew it, she had a plate of pastries in the store waiting for her.

“I’m really snobby when people try and make something like a croissant,” Neimeth said. “He made a chocolate croissant as good as anyone I had ever seen anywhere in the entire world, and I was just so impressed.”

She eventually invited him to begin bringing baked goods into the store, helping find and convert the Short North space into a working bakery.

“I was so fascinated by the whole idea that he had been an opera singer and had this tragic injury to his vocal cords,” she said. “[My husband and I] like to try and see if we can support people and causes where we think there is something they really have a passion [for].”

Laughlin noted many people walking into the bakery have exclaimed that it has such an authentic European feeling to it. “They’re like, ‘Oh it’s Paris’…and I want them to realize no it’s Columbus!”

While the bakery is homegrown, the concept is European.

“This is what’s so awesome about Europe. You have a guy who sells meat and that’s all he does, and a guy who bakes and a guy who fixes your shoe, and I think communities thrive when you foster these small specialized artisans,” he said.

While he had his choice between the bustling traffic on High Street verses setting up on Second, Laughlin chose the latter for the emphasis on truly being part of his neighborhood and thought High Street might have been too “removed” from that sense.

Columbus needed a true bakery, not a one-stop shop, Laughlin said. His bakery was made to fill that order.

Laughlin’s Bakery 15 E Second Ave. For more information visit, laughlinsbakery.com.

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