We need shops like Evergreen Butcher and Baker now more than ever

Even before the coronavirus onslaught, I felt emotional about Evergreen’s old-fashioned sourdough pain de campagne and shapely baguettes

Evergreen Butcher and Baker
Emma and Sean Schacke in front of their Kirkwood butcher shop and bakery

Photograph by Martha Williams

In 2018, Emma and Sean Schacke bought a quaint, free-standing building next to Kirkwood’s police station and across from its public library; the former under-the-table casino with an upstairs nightclub had been vacant for 40 years. In that building, the couple would hatch their dream: Sean would butcher whole animals; Emma would bake hearty, European-style sourdough loaves and pastries. Their long hours would be eased by the fact that they’d live upstairs.

They opened Evergreen Butcher and Baker in September 2019 and drew a steady stream of customers enamored of their mind-blowing croissants and astoundingly good brisket.

Six months later, in mid-March, their little operation became more urgent. The Schackes now bake extra bread each day to offer a free loaf to those suffering through the COVID-19 crisis—particularly members of the temporarily shuttered bar and restaurant industry. And with a few adjustments to their hours and new safety procedures (such as asking people to queue up outside), the Schackes remain committed to running a quality, community-minded shop—one that I find more necessary than ever.

Evergreen continues to source its meat and flour from local farmers and millers who’ve seen other buyers close up shop. The gratitude is mutual. “Having a local food system and supply chain to rely on is the only reason we are able to continue to provide for the community,” Emma told me.

Even before the coronavirus onslaught, I felt emotional about Evergreen’s old-fashioned sourdough pain de campagne, shapely baguettes, rustic apple cakes, and savory pastries, including sausage rolls and pot pies. Here, you can find such comforts as housemade headcheese, souse, and scrapple. The meats, sourced from nearby farms, are appropriately rosy or crimson, with cuts such as certified Angus Picanha (a top sirloin popularized by Brazilian steakhouses) and gloriously thick and fresh pork chops with a shortened bone.

Sean, who is from Athens, worked as a chef for 12 years in Atlanta and Nashville before becoming a butcher at the renowned Publican Quality Meats in Chicago; Emma, originally from Toronto, moved to Chicago when she was 19 to attend the French Pastry School and moved around every year or so, working in pastry and baking bread, learning from other bakers. Both now consider Atlanta home. And, yes, they live above the shop.

Evergreen Butcher and Baker
Loaves of Emma’s exemplary miche and sourdough

Photograph by Martha Williams

I’m crazy about the lovely aesthetics of the meticulously restored building, with its dark green and black facade. The tiny inventory speaks to my soul. There isn’t too much, but it’s enough. Sean gets half a cow a week and at least one whole pig. Standing in the middle of the floor behind a small counter, he goes about his butchering in a clean apron while his wife feeds folded fresh dough into a contraption called a sheeter to make the kind of laminated, flaky croissants I now can’t imagine living without.

Breads such as flattish einkorn loaves and an especially dense, faintly sour German-style Vollkornbrot bring joyful sustenance to my household. I hungrily buy the brown eggs the store gets from Darby Farms in North Carolina. If I need orange marmalade or lard by the tub, I trust the products, made in-house, will be more exceptional than any I can find elsewhere.

In today’s uncertain times, these are the pleasures I need.

This article appears in our May 2020 issue.