Adam Spears debated wearing a suit when he interviewed for a vendor space in Charlotte’s 7th Street Public Market, where he hoped to launch his business, Local Loaf. Instead of donning a suit and tie, he purchased a chef coat and had it embroidered. That coat proved to be an investment in his future.
“One of the questions they asked me, they go, ‘Well, it looks like you’re going to do this here or somewhere else,’ you know. I said, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to go. I’m going to do this here or somewhere else,’ and then a couple days later found out that I got the spot,” recalls Spears, who is Local Loaf’s owner and executive chef.
Local Loaf — Spears’ restaurant, patisserie, and artisan bread bakery — held its grand opening at the 7th Street Public Market in 2013. You’ll not only find traditional breakfast fare like omelets and pancakes on the menu but also gourmet sandwiches on artisan bread, salads, soups, and a variety of sweet and savory pastries.
The flavor of bread depends on what Spears and his five employees feel like making each day. There might be fruit-and-nut, rosemary, spinach-and-tomato, or feta cheese with caramelized onion in the mix. Bagels are also available. Some of the mainstays in the bread lineup include brioche, sourdough, baguettes, and ciabatta.
“Chicken & the Egg” is Local Loaf’s signature sandwich: a popular creation featuring hand-breaded chicken tenders, aged white cheddar, a poached egg, microgreens, and a chipotle Cheerwine sauce served on a buttermilk biscuit.
Most sandwiches run from $8 to $10.
Local Loaf incorporates local and North Carolina ingredients whenever possible, including flour from Lindley Mills in Graham.
Its wholesale bread business is increasing rapidly with a growing roster of customers, including Ri Ra Irish Pub, The Wooden Vine, The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel, and Fahrenheit of Charlotte, Spears says.
Spears, 28, wasn’t always on a culinary track. He changed his major at Ohio State from music education to hospitality management. Later, he moved south to study culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University, choosing the Charlotte campus over other locations given its closer proximity to his home in Ohio.
He traveled for Johnson & Wales through its “Roadrunner” program, recruiting high school students and leading cooking demonstrations. A scholarship enabled him to stay on at Johnson & Wales to study baking and pastry arts.
Spears says he also learned a great deal from his time working as a baker and sous chef at Heist Brewery in Charlotte, but he was ready to be on his own.
His dedication is obvious as he speaks about finding joy in ordinary tasks he performs every day. Last year, he says, he allowed himself only three to four days off the entire year.
One of Spears’ business mentors is Charlotte restaurateur Frank Scibelli. “Anything he touches usually does really well,” Spears says. “And so I’m very lucky to have someone like that, that I can call and ask questions.”
Another influence has been chef Charles Semail of Chef Charles Catering.
But it was master baker Harry Peemoeller who was a mentor to Spears during his time at Johnson & Wales. “Any time he was talking, I always tried to listen to him,” Spears says. “I definitely have never seen someone so passionate about bread-baking as I have him. So, he’s definitely an inspiration in my life.”
7th Street Public Market
224 East 7th Street
Charlotte, N.C. 28202
Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Hope Yancey is a freelance writer in Charlotte. She is a regular contributor to the community news editions of The Charlotte Observer. See her archived stories here.