After more than four years of hard work and planning, Nevada City’s Three Forks Bakery & Brewery will open next month, offering local residents a fusion of fresh-baked goods, wood-fired pizza and craft brew, all made from local organic ingredients.
“I love baking and (Dave Cowie) loves brewing. We’ve both had them as hobbies for many, many years, decades in both of our cases,” Three Forks co-owner Shana Maziarz said. “Our whole approach is to keep it simple, and keep it accessible, we’re not a fancy place. We’re spending a lot of time and money on our ingredients, but we want anybody to walk in here and eat something that tastes great.”
Located on the 200 block of Commercial Street in Nevada City’s historic downtown area, Three Forks began construction in January, gutting and remodeling an old annex building that was once a warehouse for the city’s Alpha building.
“This building was really ugly — it was like this big empty shell,” Maziarz said. “It wasn’t built with an aesthetic purpose. In a lot of ways it was great for us because ... we could do what we wanted with it.”
Maziarz, a Nevada City native, first came up with the idea of the restaurant after years of home baking as a hobby, catering informally for friends and family, though always contemplating starting a business in her hometown.
“I did a lot of staging in different bakeries to get experience in a professional setting,” she said. “I took a course at the San Francisco Baking Institute, so I figured if I’m going to go bigger on this thing, I’m going to get some experience with bigger machines, bigger mixers, bigger ovens, bigger projections. I also spent a lot of time just visiting different bakeries and talking to folks.”
Maziarz met Dave Cowie, a local home brewer, through a co-worker, and was immediately impressed with Cowie’s talent for crafting brew, and four years ago presented him with an interesting business proposition.
“I said, ‘Dude, your beer’s so good you should be doing this professionally. I’m opening a bakery and a little bistro, you should start a brewery, I’ll buy your beer, I’ll sell it at my bistro bakery,’” Maziarz said. “And he was like ‘I’ll look into that.’”
Cowie was coming to the end of a job, and after more than 20 years of home brewing came back to Maziarz and proposed that the two open the restaurant together.
“I was looking at doing something real small, something like a three-barrel little production and you can’t really make money doing that, selling it wholesale,” Cowie said. “So I thought it would be better to make it a brew pub, and when she talked about having wood-fired pizza, I was like ‘OK, that’s going to work with the beer, all right, I’m in.’”
Cowie started home brewing in April 1991, admitting that his first forays were terrible.
“But I was really hooked by the concept of making each batch better, and it took me a few tries to start really seeing it,” Cowie said. “But when I went to an all grain set up, at that point I brewed the best beer I had made in my life and I was totally hooked.”
Cowie knew that the leap from home brewing to professional brewing would be a challenge. Cowie began doing research into mass beer production, and got some exposure inside some professional breweries.
“I took a brewery immersion course at Colorado Boy Brewing Company three years ago, and I really started trying to do some homework to make that learning curve slightly less steep, and it’s paid off,” he said.
Cowie and Maziarz initially aimed at putting their business in Nevada City’s old Alpha building on Broad Street, which was undergoing renovations by the city to become a marketplace. Cowie, though, said the project was taking too long, and when they saw their current space open up in April 2012, the business partners jumped at the chance.
To fund their operations, they made the business a corporation open to friends and family to become shareholders and investors. The duo also launched an extensive social media campaign.
“We’ve had incredible community support,” Maziarz said. “We did a Kickstarter campaign and raised $42,000, and it just really shocked us that people we didn’t know were giving us money to get started.”
Cowie and Maziarz wanted to make sure their establishment represented the community that backed them, naming their bakery and brewery after a local landmark close to the hearts of many local residents.
“It’s representing the south, middle and north forks of the Yuba River,” Cowie said. “There’s a lot to draw from, just to reflect something about this area because that’s something the locals of the area are going to relate to and appreciate.”
The tables and counter-tops in Three Forks are all made from old Douglas fir ripped out of the floors of the Alpha building, the back bar is made from used floor from an old candy shop in town, and the brick used in the building comes from 1880s local clay that was formed by hand.
“It’s really just infusing it with the history of this place,” Maziarz said. “But at the same time making it fresh and contemporary, that’s part of the vision we were looking for.”
Along with the pizza and brew, Three Forks will offer sandwiches, soups, pastries, breads and Fable coffee. The Kitchen will also provide customers with cider and kombucha on tap, and a visible wood-fired pizza oven.
Three Fork’s grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 15, and will include a photo booth and band. Maziarz says the opening will be the culmination of years of hard work.
“We’re doing the right thing,” Maziarz said. “People want this, people want local organic food, people want a place that’s casual to be at that’s beautifully designed. We’ve taken a lot of care with the vision and really thinking about where we’re sourcing our food, really thinking about how we’re building the place. You know we’ve just been taking a lot of care with this process and just been really affirming that that’s what people want.”
For more information, go to http://threeforksnc.com/.
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.