BUSINESS

Getting Serious About Life: Mississippi Gulf Coast baker plans to expand Serious Bread bakery

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Al Jensen, owner of Serious Bread Bakery. Photo by Samuel Palode

Samuel Palode
Oxford Stories
sjpalode@go.olemiss.edu

Sometimes you reach a point in your life when it’s time get Serious.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast features many businesses and casinos with a beach view. While some craft and sell arts, clothing and jewelry, others bake bread.

Al Jensen, owner of the Serious Bread bakery at 131 Main St. D., Bay St Louis, said his first love was the ocean, but he later became an oceanographer.

“Water was just calming to me,” said Jensen, 67. “Whether being on a boat or swimming, it was like meditation to me. That is what gave me the idea to go to school and learn to capture the beautiful waves of the fierce ocean.”

Jensen graduated from Southern Miss and later worked at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center. After spending 37 years on the ocean and taking pictures, he decided to try something new.

“At first, it was a hassle trying to figure out what to do after life on the water,” he said. “It was all I knew for the longest. I understood that if I didn’t come up with something, then my life would be miserable.”

During his time on the seas, and even in other countries, Jensen became interested in bread varieties.

“When I took the time to look back at the different types of bread, it all clicked for me,” he said. “Where I live on the Coast, we do not have a variety of bread. Most of the bread was store bought. Immediately, I figured out what I wanted to do.”

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Al Jensen in the process of making bread. Photo by Samuel Palode.

Jensen wanted to bring many cultures of the world to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. That’s when the Serious Bread bakery was born.

“I had the idea of opening up a shop, but I need to master my craft of baking bread,” he said. “I attended many workshops to do so. When I came back to the coast, a burger joint called the Mockingbird Café offered to let me bake bread for them. I accepted and knew this was how my bread would get noticed.”

Jensen saw an increase in burger sales from the café and realized bread was the reason. He decided to open a store.

“I first opened my doors in 2010,” he said. “As expected, business was moving slow. It was as if the people who dined at the Mockingbird Café did not know I was the bread-maker. I remained patient. Months went by, and business started to pick up. I was ecstatic to see people come through the doors with smiles on their face.”

Baking bread professionally requires balance.

“One of my early goals is to figure out how much bread to make,” Jensen said. “Some days, I would make loaves upon loaves of bread and wouldn’t have much service. Other days, I would preserve my dough and would end up flooded with customers. Profit is always good. I just try not to lose profit by baking too much bread in one day.”

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Some of the desserts made at the Serious Bread Bakery. Photo by Samuel Palode.

Shamariah “Shay” Giesel, 20, is Jensen’s longtime friend. She supported the Serious Bread bakery through ups and downs and even helps bake bread when things get busy.

“Al’s way of doing things is perfect,” Giesel said. “He keeps the customers first and makes sure they leave satisfied. That’s been his motto from the start. ‘Like what you do, and love who you do it for.’ We have never gone wrong with that mindset.”

Giesel takes pride in the bakery. Its success has brought many people to the Coast and forced the Serious Bread Bakery to expand.

“When the bakery first had opened, only bread was made,” she said. “Being the only small business to make bread was an advantage, but we had to bring more flavor and culture to attract more people. Now, not only do we make bread, we also expanded to desserts and such.”

They also have a new location.

“The Serious Bread Bakery is always looking for growth,” Giesel said. “We’ve received so much positive feedback from people all over the Coast. We decided to place a new location in Ocean Springs to make it more convenient for long distance travelers.”

Giesel also has some new ideas in the oven.

“We are starting to look at special occasions now,” she said. “There are times when people come in and ask if we could make them a wedding cake or a certain amount of bread for parties. At first, the request was surprising, but now we receive them more and more over time. Any money is good money. With careful and strategic planning and great production and execution of the baking, we will increase substantially as a whole.”

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