Right in Downtown Durham, in the middle of the loop on Main Street, sits Ninth Street Bakery. It has settled in its third location with a beautiful patio surrounded by vegetables and flowers, a huge commercial kitchen, and a small café that is partitioned off from the rest of the kitchen. They serve classic sandwiches along with some weekday specials such as a Thai Curry Bowl, Falafel Sandwich, Savory Handpies, pastries, and soup! You can sit inside or out and enjoy a nice cup of local coffee from Bean Traders (also located in Durham), some fresh Kombucha on tap that is brewed in house, or a cold glass or bottle of beer. Of course you can find their selection of breads and sweet treats such as biscotti, cookies, or granola and even some Ninth Street Bakery t-shirts made by local t-shirt company, Runaway. On Saturdays and Sundays they serve a light (and amazing delicious) brunch with Vegan brunch on every third Sunday. Needless to say, you can find just about anything you may be looking for right inside Ninth Street Bakery.
Ninth Street was started in 1981 by two brothers, George and Frank Ferrell, Maureen Ferrell (Frank’s wife), and Michael Mooney (Maureen’s brother). They were first located as a small café on Ninth St—where Dain’s Bar is now—and focused on selling their retail items at the bakery/café. Ninth Street Bakery was a big contender in the organic and healthy bakery circles in the ‘80’s, and its reputation and business continued to grow. As the company shifted from a retail emphasis over to wholesale, their location changed to fit their needs. After outgrowing their original space in 1989, they moved to a different location on Ninth Street (where Elmo’s is now) and opened a restaurant. They served everything from salad and soups, to coffee and pastries, to dinner entrees and desserts. They then opened a bakery plant in 1992 to help keep up with the demand as both retail and wholesale business grew. They operated as a restaurant for seven years and then decided that it was too stressful and time-consuming, and closed the restaurant portion. They shifted all of their operations and sales over to the bakery plant on Chapel Hill Street where they still operate today.
Ninth Street is now owned by Ari Berenbaum, who bought the bakery from the original owners when they retired. They were looking for someone who would carry on the business and the name with their original spirit in mind. Ari was a baker and production manager at Ninth Street, and has since been perfecting and modernizing recipes and adding bread selections. He got into baking at home and became intent on creating the perfect blueberry pie recipe—he attempted the pie fifteen times and the final product used wild Maine blueberries. He worked at a bookstore and wrote fiction while pursuing a graduate degree at UNC. While training as a baker at Ninth Street he left his degree program because he “caught baking like a virus”. Ari is originally from Boston and grew up with his family’s Jewish baked goods, which have inspired some of the items that are now offered at the bakery. The Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot is based off of Ari’s grandmother’s recipe. His favorite parts of baking are the creation process, keeping up with the artisan and baking world, and being challenged by others in his field. He is passionate about supporting and participating in the communities of Durham and the Triangle, and hosts charitable events as well as sliding-scale classes at the Bakery.
Now 2/3 of everything produced at Ninth Street Bakery is sold wholesale. You can find their products at Whole Foods, Kroger, Earth Fare, local Farmers Markets, and 20 different cafes around the Triangle area. They make 10-12 different varieties of breads and have 40-60 different products overall. Everything is made with local flower from Lindley Mills in Graham, NC.
From all of its transitions to the bakery it has become today, Ninth Street has created its own niche in the bread-making community of the Triangle. Its somewhat complicated history has made it the eclectic and welcoming bakery it is today. Stop by and enjoy the atmosphere, you won’t be disappointed.