One couple’s passion has blossomed into a booming business for the community of Ripon, as well as the rest of the 209.
What started with a bicycle and a few dozen loaves of bread has since evolved into so much more.
Kris and Tom Henderson have found a niche which the 209 has responded to. The owners of Klean Eatz Market and Bakery took a leap of faith stemming from their passion for sustainability and Kris’s mastery of making sourdough bread.
“Part of our whole purpose is to recognize that the world has to be a sustainable place and there’s just so much throw away,” Kris said of their eatery business, which recently re-launched with a narrowed vision.
First opening in late 2020, the couple left their primary jobs to explore their vision of bringing something unique to the community by way of a cafe, as well as a market.
“Everything in our cafe is organic, non-GMO. All of our meats are sustainably grown. So you’re eating nourishment,” Kris said, noting that the market portion of the business has been edited considerably from their initial vision.
“We’re pivoting as a business. We’re still bringing in a lot of good stuff. But everything in this store are things that actually sell and people want,” she continued, referencing the knowledge gained from the past two-plus years.
One thing that sells and sells well is the daily freshly baked bread in the Klean Eatz kitchen.
A baker herself, Kris first began getting her hands doughy five years ago baking sourdough bread. With a passion as well as desire for mastery of the initial hobby, she attended the San Francisco Baking Institute, SFBI.
“Bread school they do all types of breads, my trade is sourdough,” she said. “I taught myself sourdough, but I wanted to learn to do sourdough big. It may not look like it, but we are a big bakery. I wanted to go from baking 10 loaves, 20 loaves, 30 loaves to 200, 300, 400. That’s what SFBI did for me.”
Using her knowledge, as well as passion, the early days of Klean Eatz was Kris baking bread daily and delivering it to homes throughout Ripon on her bicycle or in front of her home, through an “honor system” pick up and pay process.
Her goal simple, to educate the public about wholesome food, starting with sourdough.
“Everybody loves bread, but they see bread as not a good thing, not a healthy thing,” she said, sharing the whole grain flour and starter used for her creations is exactly the opposite of the societal stigma; it’s healthy.
Kris further shared her vision at the time, was to take it from a little cottage food bakery which was in her Ripon home to a storefront, uncertain of where. She added that she and Tom felt if it was meant to be it would be; knowing this was something she wanted to bring to the community.
“Sourdough became it. Sourdough is what people came here for. Lines out the door,” Kris said of the early days of opening the business. Today, they sell approximately 45 to 60 loaves a day in house.
To do so, Kris added two additional bakers to her team, including Head Baker, Kate Hendricks. Also self-taught in the bread department, recognizing the need for extra help to maintain the demand, Kris spent six months teaching Kate all she had learned at SFBI.
The wheat used is from Washington. That’s an important point for the couple, who believes if the land surrounding the wheat isn’t healthy then neither is the wheat because it’s growing there.
“We use no yeast here. Everything we do here is grown from a starter,” Kris explained of the 12 different varieties of bread currently offered. That includes the cafe bread, which was originally not intended to be sold in the store.
“The wheat is not sifted, so all the natural ingredients are left in it. So you’re getting nutrition when you eat this bread. It is the bread of life,” she stated.
“The sourdough is the backbone of the business,” Kris continued, sharing that many of the meals created by Chef Stephen Rinauro highlight the bread.
“It’s a dine-in experience, elevated by local, sustainable, organic foods,” Chef Rinauro stated.
With 33 years of experience as a chef, as well as a former farm to table cafe owner himself, Rinauro was a welcome addition to the team at the start of 2023, as the Henderson couple began their plan to “pivot” the business.
“We are an ingredient and produce driven program here,” he continued.
Rinauro further shared the core value of his creations are vegetables but meat is also part of the menu. Everything is made to order, a true farm to table cafe.
As the company pivots and the cafe grows, the addition of wine and beer is something the team is excited to share with the 209.
“We are partnering with the most amazing little sustainable vineyard. People that grow their own grapes, bottle their own wine and so we’re staying in that same brand,” Kris stated excitedly. “We’re focusing on an organic wine. Wines that are clean, no added chemicals, no added ferments, wild fermentation. Just like our sourdough.”
As the cafe and beverage service expand, the Henderson duo highlighted equal importance of continuing to offer fresh, local, sustainable foods in a smaller portion of what was once the market area of the space.
“Klean Eatz is a place you can come to and you can trust your food. We are 100 percent transparent. It’s a place that you can come to and we’ll educate you about your food,” Kris said.
“Being able to bring an element of direct service, full service, shared plates and keeping people in house and keeping food out of to go boxes,” Chef Rinauro said of the ultimate goal of the kitchen.
“My favorite thing about running this business is the challenges. Even though at night when you’re really overwhelmed and tired, you get up the next day and God gives you the strength to do it again,” Kris summarized. “The challenges, as hard as it is to say that, those are the things that I really thank the Lord for daily. I know in the end those are the things that are going to make Klean Eatz what it’s going to be in the future.”
Klean Eatz is at 222 West River Road, Ripon. Hours of operation as well as current meal offerings may be found on their website: www.kleaneatzmarketbakery.com.