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A production of the Southern Foodways Alliance, GRAVY tells new and complicated stories about the changing American South.

Jun 8, 2022

In “Making That Dough,” the fourth episode in her five-part series for Gravy, producer Irina Zhorov explores the business of cottage bakeries—and how small-scale bakers make amazing loaves out of home kitchens and converted garages.

“Cottage” bakeries refer to those in which people sell baked goods out of their homes. For much of the twentieth century, selling food made at home was largely prohibited, but that changed in the 1990s and early 2000s, when a small number of states passed laws allowing such sales. In the wake of the 2008 recession, every state followed suit, allowing people to earn money during a financial crisis. Around 2020, during the Covid pandemic, some states further loosened their cottage food laws, lifting earning caps and restrictions on the products people could sell. The number of cottage bakeries again exploded. 

Many bakers—like Camille Cosgwell and Drew DiTomo, the new owners of the rural North Carolina bakery that this Gravy series follows—are drawn to the cottage models during times of transition. It’s a chance to reshuffle priorities and create a sustainable work life without the long hours and unpredictable schedules the restaurant industry is known for. For others, a cottage bakery is a stepping stone to a brick-and-mortar shop. 

For this episode, Zhorov talks to Cogswell about her dreams for the new property. She wants to work four or five days per week, grow some fruits and vegetables, and build something that feels sustainable and fun. Zhorov also interviews other cottage bakers in the South about their trajectories and hopes. Dalen Gray and Tatiana Magee operate Between the Trees Bread in Boone, North Carolina, out of a space that used to be Dalen’s mother’s garage. During the pandemic, sisters Reyna Soto and Adriana Ipiña opened El Pantastico, in Duncanville, Texas, making Mexican pan dulce, or sweet baked goods. Former preschool teacher Sierra Patterson of Auburn, Alabama, started Sour South from her home when her school closed and she didn’t have childcare for her son. In conversation with Zhorov, each baker explains how cottage production works for them and how they hope to evolve their businesses in the future.