Inside look: Laughlin's Bakery opening in Short North

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Jonas Laughlin was on track to be a professional opera singer. He had multiple degrees in it, and was studying around the country. At age 22, though, he came down with a cold that destroyed his right vocal fold. The illness put a sudden end to his singing career, and in the aftermath, he took up baking to help him cope.

"I had this weird existential period, and I started baking," says Laughlin, who will open Laughlin's Bakery in the Short North on Saturday, Dec. 6. "It was nice to practice something and see it get better, much like music. That's how I came to baking, more as a therapy."

But it soon became a serious hobby, even as he continued to study music and began a doctorate in vocal performance at Ohio State in 2011. Soon he went from baking for friends to selling at pop-up shops and catering. When customers went crazy for his chocolate cake-"It was the first item I baked that people really sought out to purchase," he says-he decided to quit his doctorate and bake fulltime.

In August, his Kickstarter campaign successfully raised more than $43,000 of his $35,000 goal to lease and build out a brick-and-mortar bakery. The new retail storefront is located in the Short North at 15 E. Second St., a few steps away from High Street. It's roughly 1,100 square feet, with more than half the space dedicated to the kitchen.

There's not much seating, so he emphasizes the grab-and-go nature of the bakery. Laughlin hopes his establishment will serve more like a small bakery in a European village, where regulars stop in for a quick treat and a cup of Thunderkiss coffee, or pick up cakes and pies to bring home.

His menu is full of cakes, breads, pies, tarts, cookies, muffins and scones (and you can expect seasonal rotations here, too). There's a heavy European focus-French croissants and tarts, German Lebkuchen and stollen, Scottish shortbread-but Southern flavors peak through here and there. ("My grandmother's coconut cake would hardly fit on a European menu," he laughs.)

The unifying factor, he says, is that all of his baked goods have a history. "When I first started baking, I was always interested in the history of the item," he says. He attributes this interest to his role as a student; it pushed him to research the background behind anything he baked-its origins, its original recipe, its uses. "My baking in some ways is very dramatic," he says. "I won't bake anything unless it has a story. You can literally come in and ask me, 'Where's this banana bread from?' and I'll say well, actually…"

Laughlin's Bakery will open at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6.