On the rise: Kolache bakery stirs up Fort Worth breakfast scene

Betty Dillard bdillard@bizpress.net

Investment bankers Wade Chappell and Greg Saltsman didn’t know anything about baking or how to make kolaches when they started their own kolache delivery business in Fort Worth. The two friends just loved eating the Czech pastries but couldn’t find a product they liked locally.

It’s been one year since they started Pearl Snap Kolaches (named for the pearl snap buttons on Western-style shirts), featuring sweet and savory sausage and cheese breads baked and sold from The Lunch Box restaurant on Camp Bowie Boulevard. Thanks to its rising success – and word of mouth advertising – the bakery is moving out of its Lunch Box kitchen space to its own sit-down retail location.

“The delivery business was a hit. But it was clear there was a very finite amount of food we could produce in another restaurant’s kitchen and deliver, especially with me doing all the deliveries,” said Chappell, 36. “In January 2014 we decided we had to make a change and we started looking for space.” Pearl Snap Kolaches plans to open in November in its new home located on White Settlement Road near the Monticello neighborhood and the Cultural District. The breakfast cafe is taking over about 3,400 square feet in the former Tres Joses Mexican restaurant (longtime Cowtown residents will remember Bill Martin’s Seafood and Zuider Zee’s restaurants in the same location). The eatery cozies up with recently relocated Brown Family Dentistry, The Training Center (offering yoga and pilates) and Centre Cleaners.

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“As it happened, the Browns were moving next door and said the neighborhood needed a small, homegrown coffee shop-bakery,” Chappell said. “We very quickly found us a home here.” Chappell will continue to offer PSK’s three popular kolache choices – sausage and cheese; sausage, cheese and jalapeno; and sweetened cream cheese. He is expanding the menu to include apricot and other fruit-filled kolaches, cinnamon rolls and fresh fruit bowls for a more healthful option. Gourmet coffee comes from Big Bend Coffee Roasters of Marfa. Breakfast tacos are on tap next year, Chappell says, along with live music on the weekends.

Jenn Orahood, who runs a baking-on-demand cottage food business in Arlington, has been hired as baker and coffeemaster. “We’re offering three options,” Chappell said. “We’ll still deliver, you can order online or you can come here to eat. This is the perfect location and Jenn is perfect for what we need. No one is serving what we do and there is no other place like this in the neighborhood – and no other place with the same atmosphere.” The dining area boasts about 10 tables, a few couches, a TV and Wi-Fi service. There’s a quick-service option for patrons on the go and a separate room for private meetings and parties. Chappell’s five-year-old daughter, Caroline, came up with the idea for a chalk board across one wall so kids can draw and play while their parents dine. The owners kept a giant, vibrant mural of a matador from the previous south-of-the-border restaurant.

“It’s not Czech but it blends into what we’re doing,” said Chappell. Baked goods are a far cry from Chappell’s diverse background. After graduating with a degree in Latin American studies from the University of Texas in 2002, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he got involved in politics. He caught the campaign bug and traveled through a number of states during the 2004 presidential primary election season. “After working with two losing elections and waking up on an air mattress in Philadelphia where there was 18 inches of snow on the ground, I decided I should come home and start over again,” he said. Chappell made a career shift, working almost six years as a landman in the Barnett Shale for Finley Resources Inc. When the shale activity slowed down, he and his father, attorney David Chappell, started a consulting group with an emphasis on technology enhancement. That’s when he befriended Saltsman. The two began exploring business investment opportunities together. Chappell has been an associate for the past three years with the San Antonio boutique firm of Ehrenberg Chesler Investment Bankers, while Saltsman works for another investment firm. “I asked Greg one day an existential question,” Chappell said. “‘If you could wake up every day and do X, what would that be? What would make you happy?’ My answer was video games and his answer was sausage. From there, the conversation turned to kolaches.”

Chappell went home that night and found a kolache recipe from Texas Monthly magazine. “I made the world’s worst kolaches,” he admits. “I used whole wheat flour, which doesn’t rise. I used store bought sausage and cheese. They tasted OK but they looked terrible.” Those failed kolaches became the impetus for the partners’ startup. For more than a year, they tasted and tested dozens of recipes and traveled across Texas learning the craft of making kolaches. Eventually, they developed their own secret bread recipe. They wrote a business plan and started Pearl Snap Kolaches using personal resources and funding from family and friends. “It was just people believing in me and our food and now this location. Everyone has been so supportive and helpful,” Chappell said. “We want the restaurant to be family centric, a warm and inviting place for people to come and feel comfortable in their local haunt,” he added. “Fort Worth is a great city. The growth we’re seeing in Fort Worth right now is unprecedented. It’s a great time to be here.”

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Pearl Snap Kolaches 4006 White Settlement Road Fort Worth 76107 817-233-8899 www.pskolaches.com