Rahn Keucher’s job calls for him to be on his feet 70 to 75 hours a week, in the middle of the night, in close proximity to hot ovens, in a non-air-conditioned building. He goes to work at 8:30 p.m., and sometimes doesn’t get back to his home in Enon until 10 a.m. — 13½ hours later.
And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Keucher is the founder and owner of Rahn’s Artisan Breads, the Dayton bakery that sells breads to several local restaurants and two area hospitals, and sells loaves directly to customers from his retail booth at the 2nd Street Market at Webster and East Second Street in downtown Dayton.
This weekend marks Rahn’s Artisan Bread’s 10th anniversary of his retail shop in the market. He’ll celebrate Saturday, July 6, and on Rahn’s Facebook page, he’s promising “some sort of special treat to thank you all for being loyal customers.”
Keucher, 46, is a Dayton native, a self-described military brat who graduated from Stebbins High School in 1984 and earned a bachelor of science degree in human factors psychology from Wright State University in 1991. He sewed the seeds of his baking career while working his way through college by cooking in restaurant kitchens, ranging from Pizza Hut to the fine-dining l’Auberge.
After graduation, he worked as a chef at the now-defunct Euro Bistro in the Page Manor shopping center in Riverside, making soups and quiche and breads from scratch. Kitty Sachs, who was then owner of Kitty’s restaurant in downtown Dayton, asked him to provide the bread for her restaurant. Other restaurants, such as Lincoln Park Grille and Seattle East, followed suit.
The bistro’s owner decided to focus on catering and laid him off, meaning that if he wanted to keep his wholesale bread business going, he had to find a bakery in a matter of days. He found one — in Cincinnati. And for five years, through 2000, Keucher drove to Cincinnati every night, baked his bread, and brought it back to his Dayton customers the next morning.
In 2001, Keucher went to a former bakery on Kiser Street in Dayton with the intention of buying equipment. He ended up leasing the space. He kept one of the bakery’s existing ovens and added three more, including a special German hearth oven. And that space remains his bakery today.
Chances are, you’ve sampled his bread even if you’ve never been to the 2nd Street Market. His wholesale clients include several local Submarine House restaurants, DiSalvo’s Deli, Mamma DiSalvo’s restaurant, Coldwater Cafe, Harrison’s, Olive Urban Dive, Blueberry Cafe and Giuliano’s, as well as Kettering Medical Center and Dayton Children’s Hospital.
Still, it’s his retail operation at the market that has helped him pay the bills. It’s also a family affair, as his wife and four boys, age 6 to 18, help out at the market — a little blending of business and family time that helps make those long, nocturnal work hours worthwhile.
Selling his loaves at the market also allows hims to maintain personal contact with customers, some of whom he has served for 22 years since his days at Euro Bistro. They’ve watched his children grow up while buying his breads to serve their own families.
“There’s a socialization that occurs down at the market that you don’t get the other days of the week, and it’s really, really cool,” Keucher said.
Written by Mark Fisher