Rick and Deborah Stone of the Beaufort Bread Company: Baking up goodness

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By Lanier Laney

Rick and Deborah Stone operate the Beaufort Bread Company where they oversee every aspect of the operation from the making of the breads, pastries, sausages and meals to the service and catering.

Says Rick, “We pride ourselves on being a local neighborhood business for the benefit of our neighbors on Lady’s Island and Beaufort. Deborah runs a personal fitness training business as well. She proves that you can eat our breads and pastries and remain fit!”

Rick and Deborah Stone in Paris where they go for food inspiration. They are in their pajamas in front of the Eiffel Tower on Christmas morning. Rick said, “We love to travel and our favorite place in the world is Paris where I simply let Deborah, who is fluent in French, do the talking and I just nod and follow along. My one attempt at ordering in French I ordered a battleship of wine rather than a bottle. I have been silent in that language ever since.”
Rick and Deborah Stone in Paris where they go for food inspiration. They are in their pajamas in front of the Eiffel Tower on Christmas morning. Rick said, “We love to travel and our favorite place in the world is Paris where I simply let Deborah, who is fluent in French, do the talking and I just nod and follow along. My one attempt at ordering in French I ordered a battleship of wine rather than a bottle. I have been silent in that language ever since.”

Rick, a native of Wilmette, Illinois, retired from a large global contract food service company three years ago. He says with a smile, “After six months, Deborah asked me if I was going to be home every day. I realized that was not simply a question. She was studying hard to get her certification as a personal physical fitness trainer and was used to me traveling. I had always loved baking in my career as a chef and saw a niche in Beaufort for an artisan bakery.”

He said the idea took off from there. “We spent two years developing the concept. We began by selling breads at the Port Royal Farmers Market and developed a following. Next, we worked on the site. It was quite a ride and probably deserves a book on the topic of starting a small business in a difficult financial time. Once we truly recognized that banks would not be a part of the equation and we would have to leverage our children’s inheritance, everything began to fall in place. (Our children, by the way, are hoping for a huge success!),” Rick said.

“We live on Lady’s Island and love it. Picking a site on the island was a no-brainer. Our first year has been full of ups and downs as we found our stride. We have evolved in ways we didn’t anticipate but have always kept our focus on the goal of being a successful local business.”

Rick adds, “We have been truly overwhelmed by the support of our community. We have a staff that we believe is the best in the area at providing a welcoming environment and taking care of each customer as if he or she were the only customer in the place”

Deborah, who was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec (the child of English and American parents) met Rick at the Stowehoff Inn in Stowe, Vt. (It was the inn featured in the movie “The Four Seasons” with Alan Alda, if you are old enough to remember). Rick was a newly hired chef and Deborah was the assistant general manager in charge of catering when they fell in love and got married.

Rick said, “We are happily celebrating our 25th anniversary next month thanks to her incredible patience and forgiving nature!”

They adore their three grown children who live in Vermont; Boston, Mass.; and Ghana, Africa; with three delightful grandchildren in Vermont.

Rick describes how he became a chef: “I started as a dishwasher while attending Georgetown University and moved up to an Omelette Chef, which was very trendy in the 70’s. I graduated with a Liberal Arts degree in Psychology and had learned to cook. It is easy to figure out which skill led to a job. As I worked my way though many kitchens in Chicago and Vermont, I realized this was my life’s work. When I finally won an American Culinary Federation Competition, I figured I better stick with this.

“Over the years as a chef, the baking and pastries often fell to me because there was no one else to do the work. I enjoyed the challenge. I have trained in pastries at the Ritz-Carlton in Paris, taken courses at the CIA in Hyde Park, N.Y., and competed in American Culinary Federation Competitions.”

When Deborah and  Rick married, they knew they wanted to do something together. They looked for the “right” place to open a restaurant. Their search took them throughout New England and then, on a whim, to Hilton Head where they fell in love with the place and opened their first restaurant, Rick’s Place. Eventually, they expanded to operating not only the restaurant but all the food service in The Sea Pines Resort, including the catering at the Heritage Golf Tournament and Family Circle Tennis Cup.

Says Rick, “Like so many people who have moved to Hilton Head, we were sure it was the guy who moved there right after us that ruined the character of the island. We had close friends who moved to Beaufort and insisted it was a place for us. After selling the restaurants and living in Mexico and Belize for a year we came back and eventually did settle in Beaufort. We love the size and the feel of the community. We have met so many interesting people since opening the bakery that our only regret is that we didn’t move here sooner.”

Adds Deborah, “We love the spirit of Beaufort. It is a community of caring people and a terrific mix of people from all over the world.”

She said, “We both love the outdoors and take advantage of all that Beaufort offers. Whether it be kayaking out our back door, hitting the links (and I use that term loosely), road biking or simply enjoying the amazing sunsets from our porch, cocktails in hand (I am sure that is a sport somewhere!), we take advantage of every spare moment to enjoy our amazing environment.”

As far as their restaurant and bakery is concerned,  Rick said, “We wanted to create a spot where people can come and relax while enjoying quality food served by people who are grateful you have come to see us. We believe in creating a work environment that allows are employees to live ‘normal’ lives. It is why we are open five days and not at night. Our employees have families and many are single parents and we want them to have balance in their challenging lives. Kristen, Laura and Loretta are extremely talented individuals who put our guests first. We couldn’t ask for a better trio out front serving our goods. James, our chef; Brandy and Inna, our bakers; and Xavier and David, our dishwashers, all give 100 percent to make things happen.”

Says Deborah, “Food is just another outlet for Rick’s creative endeavors. He is truly the quintessential Renaissance man. In fact, he personally made and designed the lighting fixtures, tables, countertops, and stained glass leading into the eclectic bathroom at the BBC.”

Deborah is a skilled personal fitness trainer, and Rick jokingly calls her “Jackie Lalane” after the legendary Jack Lalane, the first fitness guru in the 50s.  Says Rick with a laugh, “I would not be surprised to see her swimming in the Beaufort River, pulling a boat from a rope she is holding in her teeth.”

Deborah fulfilled a lifelong dream when she received her certification as a personal fitness trainer. Having received a teaching degree from McGill University, she always wanted to help people feel better about themselves, both mentally and physically. She is now able to accomplish that with her training business. Her motto remains “70 is the new 40” as she pursues yet another degree in physical therapy.  She is also an avid gardener, having been instrumental in initiating the very successful Rent a Master Gardener Program comprised of volunteer Master Gardeners.

The Stones have enjoyed volunteering for the local arts council and Historic Beaufort Foundation, both great organizations that they feel are very important to the well-being of Beaufort.

As for the future? Rick says, “We certainly expect to develop this business to be a fixture of the community. Retiring again for me would simply be sleeping past 3 a.m.! We hope some day our employees will own the business. They make a great team and it would be a fitting way for us to fade into the sunset.”

IF YOU GO: The Beaufort Bread Company is located at 102 Sea Island Parkway, Beaufort, SC 29907 (near the bike shop on Lady’s Island) and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 843-522-0213.