OK I’m not trying to be dramatic, but my heart practically broke in half when I read the Facebook post announcing Peppe Cucina closed its doors in April due to “unforeseen circumstances” fueled by the coronavirus pandemic. I desperately hoped the Italian deli—and its generous portions of mouthwatering, scratch-made pasta and pizza—would pull through, but it didn’t. Fortunately, a new—and equally great—eatery has filled the vacant space at 39 W. Pike Street: Rose & Mary Bakery.
The smell of fresh-baked bread and sugary glazed donuts smacks you in the face as soon as you set foot through the main entrance off East Seventh Street. Don’t let the Saturday morning rush scare you—the line often extends out the door and down the sidewalk, but it moves fast. We suggest arriving when the bakery opens at 9 a.m. so you get first dibs on the specialty breads and pastries neatly lined behind the long glass display case. And, yes, they sell out—fast. (On the slim chance products don’t sell out, they donate leftovers to local charities.)
From brown butter and sweet corn cookies and giant sourdough cinnamon buns to blueberry scones and Japanese milk bread, the sweet and savory treats rotate on a biweekly basis, with certain mainstays always available. The salty malty chocolate chunk cookie baked with malt powder and sprinkled with sea salt, for example, is a regular crowd favorite. “We try not to really limit or define ourselves to one specific thing, but we do a ton of croissants,” says Co-owner Chase Maus. The croissants are our favorite, with their layered, flaky golden-brown exterior and perfectly airy, buttery-but-sweet interior.
How It Started
Maus and Co-owner Barry Churbock formed their bakery business in February 2019 and started making appearances at local farmers’ markets the following May. You wouldn’t expect a duo like Churbock and Maus, who are 63 and 27 respectively, to pair up and start a bakery, but they make a great team. Churbock, who is friends with Maus’s family and says Maus is “like a son,” has been in the food industry his entire professional career, working in consumer products for companies like Nabisco and HJ Hinez. At Rose & Mary, Churbock oversees the financials and helps with weekend service.
Maus, who’s also worked in various local restaurant jobs, serves as head baker of Rose & Mary’s small-but-mighty team of bakers. He credits his love of baking to time spent with his late Aunt Rose and late Grandma Mary, for whom the bakery is named. “[When I was a child] my brother and dad would always go hunting or they’d be doing other things that I just personally didn’t take interest in,” says Maus, “so what else was there to do besides hang out and prepare food with my grandma? We had a really, really special bond. She was kind, generous, and loving and just the epitome of the human being that I seek to be.” Aunt Rose, who lived down the street, often joined Maus and Grandma Mary in the kitchen, too.
After building a loyal following from farmers’ markets and wholesale partnerships with local retailers, Churbock and Maus decided to move out of their space at the Incubator Kitchen Collective in Newport and open a brick-and-mortar location. They landed on Covington for a few reasons: not as many bakeries existed on this side of the river; they had a strong customer base in Covington; and the Peppe Cucina space—which features an imported Italian pizza oven, perfect for baking bread, plus 1,900 square feet of kitchen space—was available.
How It’s Going
Sales have taken off since Churbock and Maus opened Rose & Mary’s doors in December. “I think it kind of surprised us how much volume we’ve been doing in such a short amount of time,” Churbock says. In addition to their West Pike storefront, fans can find Rose & Mary treats at Roebling Point Books & Coffee in Covington and VillaMocha in Villa Hills, Kentucky.
Moving forward, the Rose & Mary team wants to expand their bread market. Potential plans include utilizing the Italian pizza oven to host pop-up pizza nights and partnering with neighboring Braxton Brewing Company to make bread that utilizes their spent grains. The team is also constantly inventing new pastries, pushing the boundaries of textures, flavors, and colors, which is where their creative flair really shines.
“I wanted to develop a customer base that appreciates the fact that we too are learning. We’re bakers, but we’re constantly trying to improve,” Maus says. “So if you see a croissant that changed from one week to the next, it’s because we felt as if it would be better in this form or decorated this way. Whatever it is, we’re constantly trying to improve upon what we did the week before.”