Athens Bread Co. Brings New York-Style Baking to Athens

Lauren McCain

Douglass Wistendahl has a passion for bread. 

“Originally I began making it as a hobby in New York,” Wistendahl says. He was baking loaves of sourdough in his small kitchen oven on Long Island on the side of being a full-time attorney.

After practicing law in New York City for over 30 years, Wistendahl and his wife decided that the city wasn’t the best place for them and moved back to Wistendahl’s home town of Athens, Ohio.  

“We were living in an area that was very lovely but the school system wasn't exactly what we were looking for,” Wistendahl says. “We wanted the overall environment and values of a small town.”

When he arrived in Athens, Wistendahl found himself at a crossroads.

“I had just recently stopped being a lawyer,” he says. “And so the question was, ‘Do I start all over again [in law] or do I do something different?’”

Enter, Bread.

“I’d loved bread since I was a little boy and I realized I could actually make a decent sourdough bread ... so I built a wood-fired oven in my backyard,” Wistendahl says. “I wanted to make it really authentic.”

Wistendahl says that it was when people began to ask for more and more of his bread that his simple hobby “ran amok” and the Athens Bread Co. began to take shape.

Among the products that they make today, which include a variety of homemade breads, pastries, paninis and even animal treats, the sourdough still remains Wistendahl’s personal favorite.

“I began making it as kind of an homage to a dear departed friend of mine who was a very famous French baker in Paris that baked almost exclusively sourdough bread,” he says.

Because of this, he says that their sourdough is meant to taste differently than your typical run-of-the-mill bread. Although they produce in greater volumes now, Wistendahl is proud of the fact that all his items are still made by hand. 

“The only time it touches the machine is in the mixer,” he says.“You’ve got to weigh it and kneed it and shape it all by hand.”

Wistendahl says that it is gratifying for him to see young people make the trip to his store to see and taste the difference between homemade bread and the factory-produced product that many have grown up on.  

“It’s real bread here,” he says. “You get your hands dirty.”

For additional information and their full menu visit Athens Bread Company at 284 East State Street Suite A or check out their website at