For its impressive baked goods, Stick Boy belongs on any bakery fan’s must-try list, even if the name begs explanation.
story & photos by Bakery Boy
With the name Stick Boy Bread Co., I half expected its owner to be skinny. Or maybe, I thought, the menu will involve baguettes (bread “sticks”) and not much else. It turns out Carson Coatney is indeed a thin man and yes he makes some lovely baguettes, but that’s not where the name comes from and certainly not the only thing he makes. A few minutes into my first visit to the Boone, North Carolina, establishment it quickly became one of my favorite bakeries ever, both for the variety offered and the energetic attitude.
“It happens all the time, people thinking Stick Boy refers to me,” says Carson, co-owner with his wife, Mindy. “I hope the real story doesn’t disappoint you.” In short, as they prepared to open in 2001, a friend in Virginia spotted an apparent joke of a sign stuck to a utility pole and sporting the words “Lost—Stick Boy,” plus a hand-drawn stick figure and a fake phone number. She laughed, told them about it, and suggested it as a bakery name. Initially they scoffed, but the idea grew on them.
Mindy’s artistic aunt, Suzie Sadak, designed a logo showing a chef’s-hat-wearing stick boy running with a loaf of bread, and soon the couple’s bakery was off and running too.
SO MANY CHOICES Keep your head on a swivel at Stick Boy, because options abound. A wall of shelves holds hefty, aromatic, artisan loaves—crusty outside, softer but firmly textured inside—ranging from Spinach Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Sourdough to Italian Ciabatta, Honey Wheat, Organic Whole Wheat Multigrain, Organic Spelt with Raisins, Cranberry Pecan French, Rustic Apple, Pumpkin, Fig Walnut Wheat, Kalamata Olive, Blueberry Oatmeal, and others. Showcases teem with fruit pies, carrot cakes, chocolate tortes, scones, cookies, and amazing sticky buns loaded with cinnamon, raisins, and walnuts. A hot espresso bar and a cool smoothie station diversify the offerings. There are also beautifully handcrafted cutting boards and baker’s peels (those flat shovel-like tools used to move hot goodies around) made from fallen trees in the Blue Ridge Mountains at a nearby woodwork studio called Elkland Handwerke (see more at Fall Creek Woods).
SUMMER STOLLEN During the holidays a popular item is a dense Christmas Stollen laced with golden raisins, candied orange peal, cranberries, and almonds. “Instead of waiting all year, we created something similar that works in summer,” Carson says. “The Summer Stollen has blueberries, cranberries, pineapple, candied lemon peel, pecans, and a glaze of blueberry icing.”
LOVE THOSE BLUEBERRIES “In summer we bake a lot of blueberries into pies, scones, bread, and pastries,” Carson says. “There’s a blueberry farm nearby called Old Orchard Creek, and the owner brings me fresh-picked fruit all through July and August. We go through half a dozen 6-quart buckets every week. We like to use local, organic, and fresh ingredients whenever possible.”
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS Carson grew up in western Kentucky, studied economics and chemistry at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and frequented Boone, where he met and married Mindy, a Boone native. “We had the idea to start a bakery before we knew anything about baking,” Carson says.
“I’d recently graduated when we happened into the Great Harvest Bread Co. in Alexandria, Virginia. We liked what we saw: terrific artisan breads, all kinds of fresh-baked goods, a lot of organic and local ingredients, and bakers who seemed happy with their work. We thought, Boone needs something like this, and we could be those happy bakers.”
Carson completed a one-week bread-making class at a Minnesota baking school and experimented at home until he felt he had enough successes and enough variety to start Stick Boy. “We rented a tiny place, a thousand square feet, just enough room for an oven, a mixer, and a table,” he says. “There was hardly room for customers. We gradually added more bread to the lineup, then scones and cookies and pies. When the laundry next door closed, we tripled our space, rounded up more equipment, worktables, and showcases, and things really took off.”
They hired a friend, then a relative, and then a succession of enthusiastic students from Appalachian State University located across the street. Mindy is at home more now that they have three sons (ages 8, 6, and 4), but remains integral to the operation.
SERIAL ENTREPRENEURS “I think I’m genetically wired to be an entrepreneur,” Carson says. “I had an uncle in Kentucky who was always launching some sideline that I’d help with. At Duke I started a laundry service for students.” Following Stick Boy’s success, the Coatneys partnered with a former employee (Katie Dies and her husband Josh) to open a second Stick Boy Bread Co. in Fuquay-Varina, about 200 miles east on the outskirts of Raleigh. Along with another trusted employee they recently bought the Boone restaurant Melanie’s Food Fantasy from a bread customer who was ready to retire. “As serial entrepreneurs,” the ambitious Carson says, “we always look for opportunities.”
LOCATION Stick Boy Bread Co., 345 Hardin Street, Boone, NC 28607 (across U.S. 321 from ASU)
HOURS 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Mon-Fri, 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sat
INFO www.stickboybread.com or 828-268-9900
AREA INFO Boone Visitors Center, Boone Chamber of Commerce, Visit North Carolina
Yay! I’m so glad you wrote about Stick Boy! I live near Boone, and always go to Stick Boy when I want awesome breads and desserts! I’ve known Carson and Mindy for several years, and they are such great people. It shows in the atmosphere of the store.
Sarah: I agree. A terrific, upbeat atmosphere pervades Stick Boy Bread Co. From the owners and managers to the bakers and store clerks, everyone welcomed me with bright smiles and helpful attitudes. They put up with my questions and my camera and were unfailingly polite. I’ll go back for the great baked goods, but I’ll linger for the refreshing camaraderie. – Bakery Boy
Stick Boy is great. I can’t believe you went to Boone and didn’t explore the little nearby town of Todd or to the Todd Mercantile and Bakery, which is a really unique place. Emilie, the baker there, is always up to something new depending on what’s growing around her. Next time you’re in the Boone area, you should check them out! She’s Tom from Elkland Handwerke’s sister-in-law too! She isn’t open on Mondays, and Tuesdays are production days, but it’s so worth the trip.
Kirsten: Ah, so many places to see and so many bakeries to sample. I’ll get there next time. I interviewed Tom by phone yesterday about his woodworking. He handcrafts dough bowls and baker’s peels, so of course I’m interested! Emilie and I have corresponded about her bakery too. Thanks for the Stick Boy comment and the hearty Todd recommendation. -Bakery Boy
Whoever said money can’t buy happiness has not been to Stick Boy. So said my daughter about ten years ago and I must agree. Stick Boy traveled to UNC Chapel Hill many times for morale boosting. Foccacia Bread and cookies can sustain study time, vacation time is not complete without Brioche French toast and Bread Pudding from Chocolate Cherry Sourdough YUM. Do not forget to try the Flourless Chocolate Torte…it will definitely cure whatever is ailing you.
I am one of many loyal Stick Boy customers!!!! The bread is always amazing, so many choices, and the scones, muffins, cinnamon rolls…yum yum!! Did you try the foccacia? I think it might be my favorite. I eat it for breakfast as often as they have it ready early in the mornings, or for a snack whenever I happen to be nearby. But the absolute best thing about Stick Boy is the great neighborly atmosphere…sort of like Cheers only nobody is drunk, ha ha! Glad you put them in your blog.
We live in Indiana and receive Stick Boy’s emails weekly. It brings a taste of the mountains to us here on the flat lands. We were in Blowing Rock last week and ate as much baked goods from Stick Boy as we could. The wild rice and onion bread, unbelievably good. Thanks for the blog about them. Kathy
My husband and I have a condo in Banner Elk so we try to get up as often as possible (but not often enough) and our very favorite place is certainly Stick Boy there in Boone. He loves their smoothies and cookies and I love the Larry’s Beans Stick Boy blend coffee and breads. What a nice group of young people! Always a treat to visit Stick Boy Bread Co. None other like it!
Glad to see the article in its final form! It was a treat to be at work that day to see glimpses of the Bakery Boy article in the making. Stick Boy is an amazing place to eat AND work – way to go Carson and Mindy for creating the coolest place in Boone! -Ariel (the girl on the right)
Thanks for the comment, Ariel. Stick Boy Bread Co. really is an amazing place, and its energy shines through in the spirit of positive-attitude staffers like you. – Bakery Boy
I discovered Stick Boy when it first opened its doors in its original “half building” space and have been a steady customer ever since. It was about time Boone had a ‘real’ bakery and a healthy one! I continue to take our out of town guests to Stick Boy and everyone loves it. I feel like Abby and I are old friends; she was such a help to me in putting together some ideas and goodies when my husband and I hosted his World War II Destroyer Escort ship reunion (USS England) at the Meadow Brook Inn in Blowing Rock in 2007. I am always happy to see her smiling face but now with her two babies, she remains more behind the scenes. Miss you, Abby!
Glad you discovered Stick Boy and I discovered your blog! Now that our son is in the bakery business, I love reading about other bakeries. I’m Stick Boy’s mom. When Carson was little, I went through a stretch of baking all our bread, but alas, it was not long-lived. About 10 years ago, when I was coming for a visit, he told me to bring my bread recipes because we were going to do some baking. When he told me he wanted to open a bakery, I thought he was nuts at first, but realized he had a great plan and Boone seemed like the perfect fit. Now I don’t have to bake my own bread…he ships us 15-pound boxes at a time!
Thanks, Stick Boy’s Mom, for this insight into Stick Boy’s background. You’ve given me an idea–instead of just interviewing bakers I should be interviewing their mothers, no doubt a rich source of rave reviews. Now I must go, close my eyes, and imagine 15 pounds of sourdough and stollen arriving at my door. – Bakery Boy
Here are the comments my husband made to Carson about your blog. He teaches English at the community college! 🙂
That’s a great article by Bakery Boy, aka Joe. He is a terrific writer, and this is an article I hope will get many reprints and much distribution. Please compliment him for me if the occasion arises. My favorite line is, “Keep your head on a swivel at Stick Boy.” My second favorite line is, “A hot espresso bar and a cool smoothie station diversify the offerings.” What a way to liven up a pair of very familiar opposites. The photos are great too!
Thanks, Stick Boy’s Dad. I’m blushing from your compliments, but then as an English major and a long-time journalist, I’ve always delighted in positive feedback from teachers and editors. Funny you should mention reprints, because I’m using my Stick Boy article as an experimental first attempt to create a mini-magazine layout suitable for printing or framing, something to distribute beyond the online blog. I’ll let you know how it turns out. – Bakery Boy
Do you realize that there is a second Stick Boy Bread Company on S. Main Street in Fuquay-Varina? This location has been open almost 3 years and is a partnership with the Coatneys in Boone. Same amazing made-from-scratch on site products and a wonderful atmosphere, with friendly staff. You ought to go!
Sure do know about the second Stick Boy location. It is mentioned and its website is linked in my August 17 post about the original in Boone (see https://bakeryboyblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/stick-boy-bread-co-boone-nc). Thanks for the reminder, Barb. I need to drop in on the one in Fuquay-Varina asap! – Bakery Boy