Article originally published in A Taste of AZ Magazine
Owners of Proof Bakery Jon Przybyl and Amanda Abou-Eid didn’t start out as bakers; in fact, they had never baked before acquiring the company. What began as a quest to find artisan bread reminiscent of that which they enjoyed visiting family in Poland turned into an unexpected career path.
Jon and Amanda stumbled upon Proof in the Gilbert farmer’s market in 2016 and became loyal weekly customers. Then owner of Proof, Jared Allen, had been a baker for Aaron Chamberlin at St. Francis (now Oak on Camelback) and at American Way Market, before operating Proof out of his home. In 2017, Jared decided to sell Proof and move out of state, and Jon and Amanda knew instinctively they had to buy it.
Amanda was no stranger to the kitchen, having grown up in a large Lebanese family and spending hours cooking elaborate meals. Drawing from this strong sense of family she explains, “Jon and I were both craving something tangible. I grew up in farmer’s markets so when our kids were younger, I wanted to share that experience with them. So before even buying Proof we had made a vow as a family to connect with our local community.”
Jon, an entrepreneur with a wide range of business experience, knew buying Proof was different from his other ventures. “I wanted to do something that every generation in my family could connect with, and Proof grabbed a hold of me in a way that is hard to explain,” says Jon.
As the brand-new owners of Proof, Jon and Amanda arrived at Jared’s home at 4 a.m. on a summer day in June for a two-week crash course in baking bread. While originally thinking of Proof as a hobby, Jon and Amanda soon found the demands of the business took over all aspects of their lives.
The heart of the business centers around the sourdough starter that Jared had named Harriet after the mother in the ‘90’s sitcom, Family Matters. “We had an intimate connection with our starter from the beginning,” explains Jon, having to feed it at the right intervals and understanding when it is at its peak to achieve any type of leavening power from it.
Staying true to this age-old tradition of leavening bread with just a sourdough starter was a 24/7 job. Amanda recalls, “I always joke and call Harriet Jon’s mistress; she was on our honeymoon.”
After their initiation into breadmaking, Jon and Amanda moved Proof into their own home. Initially, they had little to no equipment, hand-mixing the dough in a large mixing trough that Jared had built out of a barrel and using two half-broken ovens in which to bake. Slowly, they built collateral to purchase necessary items such as mixers and an industrial oven. They had to upgrade their electrical panels to power the new oven, build walk-in refrigeration, and expand their garage for storage.
As Jon describes the first year in business, “It is difficult to put into words what those original moments were like. People often talk about the sacrifice around starting a new business, but doing something arcane like baking in a way that few have done at a commercial level since the 1800’s is particularly challenging.” As the team was fueled by the reactions of their customers and by their improvement, Amanda recalls with a smile, “My low point was trying to hit Jon with the broom because I was so tired.”
After 4 years of operating out of their garage, what Jon and Amanda call the “soul of Proof,” they received notice from the town of Mesa that they had to move. While enjoying a meal at Tacos Chiwas on Main Street in Mesa, they noticed a vacancy next door, a historic building from 1880. However, the building needed a lot of work. At 22-feet wide by 140 -feet long, the goal was to transform it into something viable for several years to come.
Capital was an issue. They had just spent a lot of money into retrofitting their home to accommodate the growth of Proof. A friend suggested raising money on Go Fund Me. Their presence on YouTube enabled them to raise over $100,000 from people representing over 100 countries. Jon explains the move was quick. “We were baking in our house on a Wednesday, and the next day baking in the new building.”
Currently, Proof Bakery serves approximately 3,000 customers a week. The heart of their business centers around sourdough breads and croissants. Historically, they have used flours from Hayden Flour Mills and Central Milling out of Utah. Proof plans to mill more of their own ancient grain flour at the local grocery store Main St. Harvest (next door to Proof), using rye, spelt, and old-school grains. Jon notes that shift will incorporate “interesting techniques that bring more flavor and durability to the bread.”
Even with the new store, Jon and Amanda maintain that farmer’s markets of Gilbert and downtown Phoenix are still the core of their business. Jon says, “Without farmer’s markets we wouldn’t be anywhere,” and Amanda recalls their vow to connect with the community made many years ago in saying, “I think they are part of our identity.”
Jon and Amanda reflect on their journey all the while navigating their roles as parents to two children. Says Jon, “The idea of believing in what we are doing and figuring out how to make it viable still drives me to this day because we are not out of the woods yet. It seems like every year there is something crazy that happens, from a pandemic and forced eviction, to the cost of ingredients and labor skyrocketing.” However, Jon adds, “we believe the future of our bakery is in the actual bakers, having a passion for what they are doing, and understanding the why.”
Written by Marci Symington | Photography by Luke Irvin
What a wonderful story… 🙂
Thank you, John!
Comments are closed.