One of the many objects of nostalgia in Los Angeles is the fleet of Helms bakery trucks, lemon yellow delivery trucks that brought bread and other baked goods throughout neighborhoods across L.A. between the '30s and '60s. At Lodge Bread in Culver City, Or Amsalam and Alexander Phaneuf don't have a fleet of bread trucks. They've started with one, an old plumbing truck the two bakers found on Craigslist and retrofitted with shelves and a to-go window.
"It's a whole loaf mobile," said Amsalam recently at Lodge, the small bakery that he and his partners opened last November, recalling that his grandmother used to get Helms bread delivered to her house. The truck, which launched this month, doesn't yet deliver bread to houses, but is driven to farmers markets — currently the Beverly Hills Sunday market; next month in Playa Vista; and the Arts District farmers market in October — where it's parked and opened for business. "Who wants whole loaves in their neighborhood: We'll go there," said Phaneuf. "We're permitted to be anywhere in L.A."
The truck is a way for the bakers to expand their business without selling wholesale, which they've stopped doing. Phaneuf and Amsalam are also expanding next door, taking over the the former office space next to Lodge to accommodate a wood-burning pizza oven and a 20-plus seat patio, which they hope will be open by early next year.
"We're three generations away from neighborhood bakeries," said Phaneuf. "We used to do this as the norm: Half the time we just took what the Helms man had." What the Lodge bread truck has is the loaves that Phaneuf and Amsalam and their crew bake in what is currently a 940-square-foot bakery — whole-grain, long-fermented, high-hydration loaves that are baked very dark in the European tradition — as well as their own baked goods. These are cookies, granola, nut butters and jams, and massive whole grain cinnamon rolls, enormous things not much smaller than the hubcaps on the truck. "We're selling everything but toast," said Amsalam.
What else is on the horizon for Lodge: a mill so that they can mill grain on-site for the flour that goes into their bread and baked goods, as well as all that pizza. (Until they open next door, Lodge has a popular Sunday pizza night.)
"It's a fun way to be accessible," said Amsalam of the truck. "We want to share our loaves — so you can make your own toast."
Lodge Bread, 11918 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (424) 384-5097, www.lodgebread.com.