Like the signature streets it is named after, Cobblestone Bakery has had a bit of a bumpy road getting to its opening day.
The downtown Modesto eatery has been threatening to open for more than a year. First it was going to happen in July 2016. But owner Gerit Sand decided he wanted to do more extensive interior renovations. Then it was going to open in July 2017. On Tuesday it finally welcomed the curious crowds – who have watched the development of the large restaurant space in the middle of 11th Street intently – inside to have a taste.
“The time and dedication that goes into this type of business is rewarded by the customer satisfaction and smiles that I put on people’s faces when they enjoy my baked goods and products,” Sands said.
The long wait for the high-profile spot downtown was punctuated by frequent inquiries about when it would be ready from random passersby, area office workers and many of my fellow Modesto Bee colleagues. In the interim, Sand’s two other storefronts — the Cobblestone Bakery on Third Street in Riverbank and Country Market on Ladd Road in Modesto — have temporarily shut down.
But for those who dropped in on the new restaurant’s first day, the first impression was a good one.
“It looks really nice and it’s nicely designed. He has fixed it up really nicely,” said Stephen Hanamaikai, who popped in from his nearby office at StanCOG.
Indeed, the interior of Cobblestone is polished and professional. Sand said he spent $180,000 on renovations to the dining area, display counter and commercial kitchen — and it shows. The new 11th Street location has a massive dining room, with capacity for about 250. The site was formerly home to a Mongolian grill and Red Steer sandwich shop.
In fact the new eatery might remind you of a Panera, and Sand said that’s the point. He hopes to fashion his bakery business after the national giant. And his big plans don’t stop there — down the road he wants to franchise his eight-year-old Cobblestone business like them as well. In the meantime he plans to continue his catering and custom baking businesses as well as his farmers market sales. He currently delivers to more than two dozens markets, mostly in the Bay Area.
“A lot of people have maybe come to the conclusion that I’m not going to open, it has never been that I can’t afford to open, it’s when do I have time to open. Because I am busy. I am very busy catering and pursing my law degree,” he said.
But for now he is focused on getting the downtown Cobblestone up to speed. For the next few months it should be open until 4 p.m. daily for breakfast and lunch. By the fall he plans to be open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and possibly later.
The three large display cases on its opening day were filled with an assortment of panini on focaccia bread, a handful of quiches and about 10 pasta and potato salads. The baked goods ranged from fruit turnovers to chocolate croissants and muffins. Sand said all the food — sandwiches, salads, pastries — are made from scratch on site. He said he will add more items, including cannoli and cakes, soon.
Sand said he expects to reopen the Riverbank Cobblestone again in the fall after renovations. The Country Market in north Modesto, which Sand has owned in partnership for four years but continues to have some legal wranglings over with the property’s previous owners, is expected to reopen within a month.