1 of 3
David Rohrer putting fresh muffins on display Photo by Isaac Harrell
2 of 3
Vegan chocolate pecan muffins Photo by Isaac Harrell
3 of 3
It's good to live in Church Hill these days. With three new bakeries opening within the last few months, The Roosevelt offering the best new American cuisine in the East End, plus Dutch & Co. now open and ready to give them some competition, this is suddenly a culinary destination as well as a historic neighborhood.
WPA stands for Well-made Pastry Alliance, a play on the Depression-era Work Projects (originally Works Progress) Administration that sought to put artists and artisans to work for the good of local communities. Co-owner and head baker David Rohrer, who is also an accomplished artist, has adapted the original iconic posters to decorate the cozy shop at the corner of Marshall and 27th streets.
Two Cakes: Vegan vs. Conventional
"Given the current economic situation, [the name] seemed appropriate for a neighborhood bakery," he says. Fiesta Dinnerware and simple accents of color create the feel of a neighborhood coffee shop, very much in keeping with co-owner Kendra Feather's other tiny neighborhood joint, Garnett's Café in the Fan. Both create a welcoming space where locals can hang and relax — a third place between home and work, as the saying goes. Rohrer and Feather have worked together since 2001, when he started cooking at Feather's first restaurant, Ipanema Café on Grace Street. Rohrer wound up staying for the next decade, working hand-in-hand with Feather to create and establish the best vegan/vegetarian menu in town. Ipanema was one of the only places to focus on vegetarianism at the time, and the forward-leaning pair developed a close working relationship as they explored the cuisine and how to make it work in Richmond. Rohrer produced all the baked goods in-house using vegan methods that he developed and perfected over time. He was hooked by the challenge of baking without butter and eggs and still achieving the same level of deliciousness. Gluten-free experiments began somewhat ahead of the curve as well. "Kendra's gluten-intolerant, so I'd been working on those recipes for a while before it really blew up." When Feather sought to expand her restaurant collective, Rohrer was ready to transition from late-night line cooking into something more challenging, with better hours. "We created the position of ‘head baker' together," Rohrer says. "The business really needed someone to do the baking full-time to keep up with expansion and increasing demand, and after nearly a decade of line-cooking dinner shifts, I was ready for a change." When a suitable space opened in Church Hill, the business plan was already polished, and the operation finally had its own home. "The contract orders pay the rent, and we've been pleasantly surprised by the volume of walk-in business we've received so far." He smiles. "I don't know that you ever get used to waking up at 4 a.m., but my wife is a teacher — now we get to see a lot more of each other."