Forno Bakery: From baking boules to rising business

Oct 12, 2020

MARION — Melissa Sepulveda started baking bread as a sort of therapy while staying at home recovering from breast cancer and taking time off from her career as a photographer back in January. She continued baking as the coronavirus pandemic kept everyone at home, and so Forno Bakery was born.

Fast-forward to now, and Sepulveda is baking 50 to 100 breads a week in varying forms, running Forno out of her kitchen.

“It’s just been amazing,” she said.

Breads like boules, focaccia and pizza dough every week are coming out of Sepulveda’s kitchen like hot cakes.

Initially, she would make 14 loaves at a time and give extras to friends and family. Once she started posting her work on social media, people started asking to buy bread.

She would tell her friends, “I am not a baker!” to which they would reply, “Well I think you’re wrong!”

When Sepulveda started selling, she started out with eight customers. By the second week, that number tripled. 

Now, the demand is so high she is only selling bread in retail spaces like Marion General Store and Ripe from the Vine, and supplying goods for Harriet’s Catering and Walrus and Captain.

“I love to feed people, and I love to make people happy,” she said.

Sepulveda learned everything she knows from watching her Italian grandmother cook for 30 to 50 people in the kitchen since she was a baby. 

The result is a no-frills style of baking that’s connected to her Sicilian roots, where everything is made from scratch. 

“I just decided to put all of those skills to use,” she said.

As it stands, Sepulveda bakes and delivers her bread on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Preparations start the evening before she bakes, and she starts working on the breads at 5:30 a.m. the following morning.

The bakery’s menu changes by the week, which gives Sepulveda flexibility in what she wants to bake. 

During the height of the pandemic, it was hard to get the ingredients though. Sepulveda said she paid a “ridiculous” price to ship a 50 lb bag of flour, and she once had to scour her house to find salt with her husband, Jose. 

Thankfully, she has a system down now for ingredients, she has been certified as retail residential kitchen to sell her bread, and Forno’s is now an LLC. 

Forno’s is also a family affair. Her husband, Jose, her daughter Ava, and her son Manny (who wants to be a baker) all help out. 

Once, when Melissa was busy and couldn’t pull the bread out of the oven, she rushed to the kitchen to find her 10 year old son properly taking it out.

Manny and Ava are so used to their mom baking that they can tell which bread she’s making in the morning just by smell.

Her brother also helps with finances, and her nephew, who is a chef, gives her helpful information on running the operations. 

Her sister Maria, even helped name Forno (which is Italian for oven.)

So these days, Melissa has stopped saying “but I’m not a baker!” and now says “but I guess I am!”