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Bread Biking through Burlington

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Caleb with his cart and steed
Photo credit: Jesse Baum

Source: Jesse Baum, EAN/University of Vermont Clean Energy Internship Program

“Fresh bread! Fresh bread for sale!”

For some, the cry might as well be one from heaven. For Caleb Hoh, it’s part of the job. Like vendors of yore, Caleb travels Burlington by bike and hawks his wares. He is one of three bread bikers currently working at August First, a bakery and café on South Champlain and Main Street in Downtown Burlington.

“It’s kind of a second home to me,” says Caleb, whose mother and stepfather founded the bakery together in 2009. August First Café, a large open-style space, also employs a no-laptop policy. Rather than anachronistic, Caleb and the August First team see it as a way to encourage a community feel in their space. It’s all part of the vibe, a word Caleb is fond of using.

Caleb has been biking for three years, despite only recently passing his road test to get his driver’s license. Though the Bread Biking program only runs through the warmer months, at one point all of August First’s deliveries came via bike, come snow or sleet or freezing winds.

Perhaps remarkably, the employee that made those original yeti-like runs still works at the bakery.

Turning the gears

Bread bikers are part of August First’s way to connect with people in all neighborhoods of Burlington and to bring pastries, rolls and baguettes to their doorstep. The idea came from Caleb’s mother, Jodi Whalen, who knew a man from a local bakery with a similar system when she was growing up. The baker would go around the neighborhood with a “treasure trove” of Danishes and pastries for sale. From there, inspiration struck.

What if they did that with bikes?

With that, the Bread Biker program was born five summers ago. There are currently three bikers—and they rotate, so that two work each dar. Each weekday afternoon, the bikers hitch a trailer with the August First insignia painted on the side of their bikes, and load up on bread, rolls, and sweets.

“Then I bike and I yell until we sell out.”

The route

They bike from May through October, rotating through the various Burlington neighborhoods. Monday and Thursday are the South End of Burlington, Tuesday and Friday are the New North End, and Wednesday is the Old North End. Though many of Caleb’s customers are families, part of the circuit includes what he and the other bikers refer to as “college town”.

“And they love it just as much,” he says of his college customers.  

He explains that to him, the bike is not only a way to save energy and reduce fossil fuel use, but it also adds a face to the sales. He enjoys talking with new people and regulars alike, and notes that: “it’s more human than the ice cream truck.” 

However, Caleb also does not hesitate to extol the environmental benefits that transportation alternatives can have. He believes strongly in reducing energy usage (and by extension, our carbon footprint), and renewable energy.

“I just think that it is one of the most scientifically-backed movements,” says Caleb.

“We didn’t start Bread Biking with efficiency in mind, but it came with it. It’s about having fun and working hard.”

While biking around Burlington, Caleb has sold bread to notable Burlington residents, such as the mayor Miro Weinberger, and Burlington Superstar Bernie Sanders! He says that he is often recognized around town.

“People say, ‘Oh, you’re the Bread Biker!’ and I say ‘yeah, that’s me.’”