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Grano Bakery rises to the occasion in Oregon City

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Ulises Alvarez and Ava Mikolavich, the couple behind Grano Bakery & Market, said that Oregon City was clearly ready for artisanal bread

It was supposed to be a soft opening. Ulises Alvarez and Ava Mikolavich expected to launch an artisan bakery in Oregon City on Feb. 6 with just a few customers to begin with, so they could get used to their equipment and location on Washington Street.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Grano Bakery co-owner Ava Mikolavich welcomes customers to downtown Oregon City's new business.However, word quickly spread on a Facebook group with about 10,000 members called Oregon City Chit Chat, and the couple behind Grano Bakery & Market soon found themselves inundated with customers. Mikolavich said that Oregon City was clearly ready for artisanal bread, so she and her fiance were honored to have received such a warm welcome for Grano Bakery.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Grano Bakery barista Anna Wilson prepares a drink behind the counter offering a wide selection of artisanal breads."Things sort of clicked at the right time," Mikolavich said. "We realize that there are probably only a few places in Oregon City currently that are creating communities around food, and a bakery is a wonderful place to gather."

Local purveyors supply most of the wines, fruit preserves and other grocery items at Grano, including a freezer case of pork products from a small farm in Clackamas County. Flour — much of it whole grain and/or organic — comes from the Camas Country Mill just north of Eugene.

"Bread is a wonderful symbol of what we're trying to do here," Mikolavich said. "It's humble, simple but complex, and it's healthy when it's done right."

Rustic pastries and espresso drinks are currently available, and a monthly supper club is planned starting in May. Alvarez, 30, and Mikolavich, 28, make their endeavor look as effortless as sourdough rising, but they already have overcome an equipment failure in their first month of business by closing only one additional day. They'll close for a second Tuesday on the day after their marriage at the Clackamas County Courthouse on April 3 so they can have a day off from the usual prep work they save for Mondays.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Ulises Alvarez shapes pieces of sourdough before baking sausage buns at Grano Bakery in Oregon City.On a recent rainy morning, Mikolavich was biking to work, heading down Washington Street at about 5:30 a.m., when a guy drove through the stop signs on 12th Street and sideswiped her. PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Grano Bakery co-owner Ava Mikolavich rings up a customer while fiance Ulises Alvarez looks on.She's since had to wear a sling but hasn't missed a single day of work. Alvarez, meanwhile, considers himself lucky to get a few hours of sleep each night, since his shift begins at 4 a.m.

Their bakery has been nonstop work since September, when they took over the nearly 2,000-square-foot space from Forte Floral, which was moving from 1500 Washington St. to its current location at 14222 McLoughlin Blvd, Oak Grove. Between October and December, Alvarez and Mikolavich completely remodeled their storefront on Washington Street. During this buildout phase, they raised $8,500 in startup costs through a kickstarter.com campaign.

Grano's oven is its most important and sentimental piece of equipment. Alvarez learned to bake on it for a year and a half starting in 2012, when he began working at Fleur de Lis French Bakery and Cafe, after working in the kitchens of numerous other notable Portland restaurants. In 2016, Fleur de Lis owner Greg Mistell decided to install a new oven and offered to sell the used one to Alvarez.

"We put some significant money into this oven," Alvarez said. "So we said, 'OK, now all we need is some space,' and we found this perfect spot in July."

In addition to Fleur de Lis, Alvarez gained his culinary experience working at Olympia Provisions, Taqueria Nueve, Lincoln and the Woodsman Tavern. After leaving Fleur de Lis, he worked out of Old Salt Marketplace as its in-house baker, also supplying Grain & Gristle. Through Grano Bakery, he continues to bake for both restaurants, shipping their bread from Oregon City to Portland.

Mikolavich was the program director for Urban Gleaners, a nonprofit organization dedicated to delivering more than 1 million pounds of donated food from grocery stores annually to 17 low-income schools in the Portland area.

"I liked management and I liked numbers, so it seemed like a good complement to Ulises' skill," Mikolavich said. "In my own small way, even though it isn't making as much of an impact as the food bank, I wanted to create a sustainable food model here."

Grano Bakery is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily except Mondays. For more information, call 503-882-2980 or visit facebook.com/granobreads.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Grano Bakery co-owners Ulises Alvarez and Ava Mikolavich talk with a line of customers behind their handiwork.