After spending 30 years as an oil and gas geologist, John McBryde was tired of the 9 to 5 routine.
So he ditched his downtown office, pursued his dream, and jokes he is now working "5 to 9” operating MidTown's newest addition: the Prairie Thunder Baking Co., 1114 Classen Drive.
"This place came to me in a vision three years ago,” McBryde said. "What I wanted was to create a neighborhood bakery that was an partisan bakery that would serve a market not currently being served in Oklahoma City.”
His idea? "Fresh, made from scratch, baked goods, from the best ingredients, using old school methods.”
But it wouldn't be easy. Starting three years ago, McBryde, a Heritage Hills resident, began discussing his idea with Greg Banta just as the developer was beginning to buy properties in nearby MidTown. Banta didn't yet own MidTown's Plaza Court building at NW 10 and Walker Avenue, but both agreed the property would be the perfect spot.
By 2006, Banta had added the Plaza Court to his expansive MidTown holdings, and McBryde's Prairie Thunder Baking Co. was one of the first announced tenants. Banta declared the bakery would be one of his leading anchor tenants.
Hobby becomes career
Baking had always been a hobby for McBryde. He started baking breads as a boy, and continued to dabble with recipes in college that he would keep handy at his home. But pursuing the dream of an artisan breads and pastry bakery wouldn't come cheap — he spent $100,000 for a big gas-fired oven, $25,000 for the pastry oven, and $30,000 for two large mixers.
The entire cost of getting the bakery up and running would total $600,000.
McBryde designed the restaurant to match the Art Deco era of the Plaza Court building, and did the detailed wood work and light fixtures himself.
By mid-2007, one could see what looked like a finished bakery ready to open. But the wait continued. Oklahoma City residents Bill and Jane Garthoeffner were among many a passerby who would visit to see if the bakery had opened yet. Bill Garthoeffner was born at St. Anthony Hospital and recalled buying 28-cent quarts of ice cream across the street at Kaiser's.
"It's good to see the area coming back,” Garthoeffner said. "And we've needed a bakery like this for a long time — artisan bread that is lovingly made.