Niedlov’s Breadworks, Chattanooga, TN

Naturally leavened Old World breads made with organic ingredients got this now-diversified labor of love going.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

Niedlov’s Breadworks changed my opinion of artichokes. I had never seen their appeal before biting into a toasted Spinach Artichoke & Cream Cheese Croissant at this excellent Chattanooga bakery. The toasting is part of the magic. “We never use a microwave to warm anything,” an employee told me. “It all tastes better toasted.”

At Niedlov’s, “all” includes cranberry scones, wheat-flour-and-raw-sugar blueberry muffins, whole-wheat banana walnut muffins, molasses-ginger cookies, deli sandwiches, and much more. What surprises owners John & Angela Sweet is that their bakery, which opened in 2002, has evolved to include such a wide variety when they set out exclusively to make beautiful, healthy, slow-process, all-natural, Old World breads.

"A naturally leavened whole grain bread is the essential bread," says John Sweet of Niedlov's Breadworks. Photos by Bakery Boy

“We were just going to make artisan breads using organic ingredients, natural leavening, and traditional techniques, and sell them to some of the finer local restaurants,” John says. The Michigan native learned to bake while working at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor and through a 16-week baking science and technology course at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas. “Besides supplying restaurants we began selling bread through Greenlife Grocery and the Chattanooga Market. Branching out into other baked goods and opening a retail storefront were afterthoughts that grew from demand. We’ve become a bakery with a coffeehouse atmosphere, and we love having customers hang around.”

Angela, who studied dance and sculpture, finds artistry in baking. “When you think about it, baking is kind of like dancing and sculpting,” she says. “You’re on your feet all day, choreographing each move as you take bread from mixer to table to proof box to oven to cooling rack to display shelf, and shaping dough feels just like sculpting.”

Dough for each Niedlov's loaf rises in a separate basket.

“That creative process and the playful nature of the work is what drew both of us to this line of work,” John adds. “We have two small children who come to work with us sometimes, and it’s fun for us to watch how much they enjoy being here too.”

SIGNATURE BREADS Niedlov’s is best known for crusty, flavorful, often densely chewy Old World breads, some of which take up to 20 hours to process because of the very slow way in which yeast from the air works as natural leavening. The Ciabatta is made from unbleached wheat flour, organic stone-ground whole-wheat flour, water, sea salt, and yeast. “Our Wholey Whole Wheat, a thick, hefty loaf made with 100% whole wheat flour, is a best seller,” Angela says. “We also make a version of it with four kinds of seeds—sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, flax. That’s what I had for breakfast today!”

Photo courtesy of Niedlovs

Also on the daily bread list are Walnut Raisin, Italian Baguette, Chattanooga Sourdough, European Country Load, Farmer’s Rye, Pioneer White, and Brother John’s Dinner Rolls. Breads made only on certain days of the week (for a schedule see include Roasted Garlic, Kalamata Country, Cinnamon Raisin, Golden Raisin Oatmeal, and Cranberry Pecan.

ABOUT THE NAME Niedlov is a Bulgarian surname with no relation to John or Angela. “My last name is Sweet and I chose a career in baking,” John explains. “I could have called it Sweet’s Bakery—that would work on some levels. But it’s completely wrong for the Old World breads that are our main focus. We came across the Eastern European name Niedlov and thought it just sounded right. The name itself is kind of crusty and chewy, like the naturally leavened whole grain breads we bake.”

HOW THEY GOT THERE John ventured south to Chattanooga to study business at Covenant College, a Presbyterian liberal arts school located atop Lookout Mountain. “I went back home to Michigan, but this place kept calling to me,” he says. He met and married Angela, a fellow Michigander, while both worked at Zingerman’s. Once they built up enough of a grubstake to buy an oven and rent a space, they returned to Chattanooga and opened Niedlov’s Breadworks just around the corner from the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, adding a retail storefront later.

SLOW FOOD MOVEMENT John & Angela support the slow-food movement based on quality that isn’t possible with fast food. “It’s all about using simply methods, shorter ingredient lists, healthy ingredients, and locally produced ingredients as much as possible,” Angela says.

BAKER’S TIP: SPRITZ YOUR WAY TO CRUSTY BREADS To get bakery-quality crusty breads in your home oven, John says, load a water spritzer. “I find what works consistently best is to spritz the bread dough as it goes into the oven. Make it really wet all over. This does two things: 1) it helps the crust expand and not dry out by literally lubricating the surface, and 2) it sets up a ‘moisture migration’ that soaks in and keeps the crust moist during the early part of the bake.”


A retired wooden peel serves as an artistic poet's canvas.


NIEDLOV’S SLOGAN “We Love to Knead. We Knead to Love.”

LOCATION 215 East Main Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408 (1.5 blocks from the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. From I-24 Exit 178 go north on U.S. 27, take Exit 1 for Main Street; turn left (east), go about 9 blocks, and find Niedlov’s on the left across from Fire Station #1.

HOURS Mon-Fri 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat 7 am.-4 p.m.

INFO or 423-756-0303

AREA INFO Chattanooga Area Convention & Visitors Bureau,

6 responses to “Niedlov’s Breadworks, Chattanooga, TN

  1. Pingback: Neidlov’s John Sweet is Tennessee’s 2010 Small Business Person of the Year « Recently On Around and About

  2. Fascinating! My Covenant College/Studio Art Grad daughter/starving artist, still residing in Chattanooga, (and looking for employment!) told me about your bakery, with the “curious” name. Will definitely plan to visit your intriguing establishment the next time we come to Chattanooga to visit her. In the meantime, wish there was a sister store in Dallas! Can smell the bread from here! Ha!

  3. Even a month after I happened upon Niedlov’s, as I hurried to Nashville from Savannah, my mouth waters for the warm rolls straight from the oven that I ate with butter and jelly. The place was filled with schoolgirls in their uniforms and young men in work clothes, all eager for a mid-afternoon snack that is wonderfully unlike any fast food I have ever seen. A true treasure there on the banks of the Tennessee River. Jack

    • Amen to that, Jack! There’s a reason why Niedlov’s Breadworks was the very first bakery I wrote about for this blog. Lucky for me, I pass through Chattanooga fairly often in my travels, so I can get my Niedlov’s fix. – Bakery Boy

  4. I have arthritis and need to stay away from the oils in most breads, and eat more nuts. What would you recommend?

    • Classic breads like many featured on this blog don’t contain any oils, just the basic ingredients of flour, water, yeast, and salt. In artisan bakeshops like Niedlov’s, the people behind the counter and manning the oven know their products well and will be glad to tell you what’s in their loaves, so ask away. Since you’re looking to eat more nuts too, check out various breads with walnuts, almonds, and other nuts added to them, and ask the bakers if their recipes include any oils. Good luck with your search. –Bakery Boy

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