Daytonian of the Week: Matt Boosalis, founder and owner of his namesake bakery-cafe

The man behind the “Best Coffee Shop in Ohio” is our Daytonian of the Week.

The somewhat curious "best coffee shop in the state" title was bestowed upon Boosalis Baking & Cafe late last month by USA Today, and while founder Matt Boosalis was appreciative of the recognition, even he acknowledged it as "a nice surprise."

>> Boosalis named 'Best Coffee Shop in Ohio' by USA Today

It’s a good bet that most of its customers consider Boosalis’ establishment as a bakery first, based on the enthusiasm they show for Boosalis’ flaky croissants, European-style baguettes and buttery-rich Kouign-Amann pastries.

Here’s more about the baker who creates those treats — and offers free refills on his award-winning coffee:

How did it come about that you launched your own bakery and have kept it going strong for a full 10 years?

I first developed an interest in baking working part-time making doughnuts while attending the University of California, Santa Barbara. From there, owning a bakery was always a goal of mine. What has kept me a going concern for these 10-plus years is a dedication to the craft. Loyal and supportive customers have also played an important role. They are the ones who will create our success for the next decade if we work hard enough to keep their patronage.

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What’s a typical work day for you now? 

My day starts a lot earlier than most people’s work day, let’s put it that way. The very early a.m. hours are all about baking. I truly treasure this part of my work. With my co-bakers, we are attentively focused on all the thousand and one little movements that make up a day’s baking. I never tire or lose the passion for watching our work be transformed into a dazzling croissant or earthy baguette. Eric Kaiser, a famous Parisian baker, termed this authentic form of baking nothing short of a miracle, and I agree.

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After we open, much of the time is spent with customers. This is both important and oh-so-pleasant. There are not many places in the economy of today where there is a connection with the owner and producer of a product. Bakeries, I would say, inspire a strong sense of nostalgia with for our customers. They share their past. This is an honor as well to think our hard work is going home with them to make their evening just a little better. I typically end my day around 4:40 in the afternoon.

Tell us why you decided to return to and settle in the Dayton area? 

My home state is California, and it will always occupy a place in my heart. I moved to Dayton to be close to my sister, Mary, and her family. It did not take long for Dayton to feel like home, and I’m proud to be a part of this community. I believe that here I am appreciated a little more for the efforts of running the bakery. Opportunities exist in Dayton that could not be had elsewhere.

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What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through the challenge? 

Like so many small businesses, finding employees who want to work is a chronic issue. We offer compensation that is meaningfully higher than the norms of our peers. Politicians cite a litany of things that ail our economy. Sadly, I’ve never heard one take on the decline of the work ethic in our society. I know it’s really a problem, because virtually every business owner tells me this is their number one issue. The situation limits the growth of the bakery.

>> NEW TODAY: Baby born on I-75 in Dayton 

What are your favorite places to eat and/or drink in the Dayton area? 

My preference is to support local restaurants. I wonder if people fully realize how much more proportionally these businesses give back to their community than the large chains? When I have the time, it’s Meadowlark, Table 33 and sometimes coffee at Winans or Epic Coffee, all of whom buy products from my bakery.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

To my wife Penny’s astonishment, classic movies really grab me. Often she will remind me what time it is and that I have to get up in a few hours for work. I don’t know why, perhaps it is the movies and my bakery represent the same: an appeal to a time when things were tastefully done. Like a classic movie that doesn’t rely on special effects but rather a tight story line and quality acting, I want my bakery to be authentic in its ingredients and deliver old-fashioned taste.

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What inspires you about the Dayton community?

Our civic leaders, business owners and private citizens are continually seeking ways to improve. The renaissance of downtown Dayton couldn’t have been imagined 10 years ago. Neither can we fully anticipate all the great things to come in the next 10 years.

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