Rock Hill Bakehouse, Interview with Owner Matt Funiciello
We caught up with the owner of Rock Hill Backhouse & Cafe, Matt Funiciello to learn more about the Cafe’s new location and new fully-vegan menu!
Q: As a well established and longtime local favorite, with over three decades of experience, can you tell us when and how Rock Hill Bakehouse began?
A: I started baking with Michael and Wendy London in their farmhouse kitchen in Greenwich, NY in 1987 (they founded Mrs. London’s Bakeshop in Saratoga Springs as well). I became their partner and then bought the business from them in 1993, moving it to South Glens Falls to expand. All of our breads are made by hand and most are naturally-leavened using levain and other sourdough starters. In those earliest of days I would drive our breads down to Mahattan five days a week- places like Aureole, Le Bernadin, Lutece, Union Square Greenmarket, and Grace’s and Balducci’s, to name a few.
We have been featured in New York Magazine, Vogue, and Time. Mimi Sheraton of the NY Times called our Jewish Rye the “best east of the Mississippi” and food critic, Jeffrey Steingarten labeled us the “paragon of purism”. We believe that bread should be great food and, as such, they are all made by hand, most with only flour, water and sea salt- though time is the essential ingredient.
Q: We were thrilled to learn that Rock Hill Bakehouse is not only moving into a new location but is also becoming 100% vegan. Can you tell us why you decided to turn the cafe into a fully-vegan establishment?
A: I became vegan in August of 2015 for environmental and health reasons. I knew shortly after that I would need to transition both of my businesses (the bakery and cafe) to be in alignment with my principles. It took me four years and there was certainly some resistance but that part of our story is not a paragraph or two, it is a book- one I look forward to writing when time allows. Long story short, as of June 2019, I sold my cafe building in downtown Glens Falls and found us a great new space at The Shirt Factory Annex where we can finally have our wholesale bakery and cafe together in one big beautiful space.
Q: Can you tell us more about The Shirt Factory and surrounding area?
A: The Shirt Factory is a huge old multi-story textile mill about five blocks from the traffic circle in downtown Glens Falls. Eric Unkauf purchased this vacant building 20 years ago and had a huge vision for it. His mill is now home to over 100 craftspeople and their studios, many of which are open to the public. There are salt lamps, loose leaf teas, pottery, locally-made foods, reclaimed furniture, and more. The artists work in many mediums including fiber, glass, precious metals, watercolors, pastels, photography, clay, and wood. Other offerings include fitness classes, massage, children’s activities, and a beauty salon. It is also right across the street from our wonderful friends at the Grey Ghost Bicycles and Kind Cycling Studios.
Q: In addition to various types of bread what other treats, sweets, and delicious items can we look forward to at the newly established Rock Hill Bakehouse?
A: Well, we make awesome cinnamon buns and oversized cookies (chocolate chip and oat raisin are my favorites) to treat yourself with after an Adirondack hike or a long bike ride. We will offer many of the menu items that made our cafe such a success include our massive French toast, our BLT on Adirondack sourdough with avocado and our house-made mayo, our ‘grown-up’ grilled cheese, pasta, organic salads, fair-trade coffee and tea, chef-made soups and chilis and dahls, and the best vegan biscotti ever; there will also be many gluten-free offerings!
The thing that is driving this whole move (besides my vegan and activist zeal) is PIZZA! [We’re talkin’] real hearth-baked pizza made with our own fresh dough, my tomato sauce and pesto, and Berben & Wolff’s incredible new vegan mozzarella. It is SO good! Oh and don’t let me forget the Red Hot Chili Peppers Bread (I have gained about ten pounds since we started making it). Bread baking classes will also be held once we get through our opening months!
Q: Is there anything else you’d like us to know about the Cafe and/or your future plans?
A: First of all, thank you all so much for your patience! We were supposed to be in our new space in early July 2019 and it is now November. We have customers stop in or call daily wanting to know if we’ve moved yet. I am pretty sure we will be open in mid-December 2019 and we will do our best to keep everyone posted on our Facebook page and Instagram account.
For those who may not [be able to] make the drive to Glens Falls…many of our breads and biscotti are available at some Capital Region area Hannafords, Honest Weight Food Coop in Albany, and many wonderful specialty retailers in the Catskills, the Berkshires, Western Vermont, and the Eastern Adirondacks.
We donate our supermarket returns to pantries food banks, and soup kitchens, and our newest team member, Jessica Ryle, is organizing a volunteer run to Red Robin Song Animal Sanctuary each week or so to bring our day-old whole grain breads to some of the animals that Jeff and Lisa so lovingly tend to. Please drop us a line if you have a van or truck and would be interested in helping out (we’re thinking gas money and food vouchers for volunteers). If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me directly at MJFRHB[at]GMAIL[dot]COM.
Thank you so much, Matt! Starting January 2020 all CRVN members will get 10% off your purchase at Rock Hill’s new location. CLICK HERE to learn more.