Taylor and Reagan Petrehn are young — 24 and 22, respectively — but they own and operate the kind of artisanal bakery and café that most people their age would be lucky to work at as a barista or server.
Luck, however, has very little to do with their success.
The hardworking Paola, Kan.-born brothers were homeschooled, which allowed Taylor to enroll in Johnson County Community College’s culinary program at the age of 15. Taylor graduated at 19, which makes him the youngest person to have ever completed the program.
Taylor says that graduating so early meant he was “fast-tracked into the industry.”
“Post-school, I had a lot of jobs that gave me more responsibility than I was probably ready for at the time,” he says. “In a way, it gave me the grit to do larger things.”
A couple years ago, while Reagan was working as a trainer for GreenHouse Coffee in Xining, China, the Petrehn brothers decided during a fateful phone call that they should do that larger thing together.
They recruited their dad, a local contractor and “one of the best builders we know,” Reagan says, to revamp a “trashed” east Lawrence laundromat from the ground up, and opened 1900 Barker there in June 2015. The Petrehns practically live at the corner bakery — “this is mostly our total life,” Reagan says — where they sell fresh loaves alongside pastries and espresso drinks.
The brothers’ shared vision keeps their working relationship from getting tense.
“To do both coffee and bread together made a lot of sense,” Taylor says, “because coffee facilitates the community and bread is such a common thing.
“But it’s not often that they can be done well together.”
Taylor: More so than an ingredient is the process of fermentation. It unlocks so much potential in almost any ingredient.
What is an ingredient you hate?
Reagan: I don’t like things that are unbalanced — too sweet or too sour or too intense.
Could you describe your culinary style in ten words or less?
Taylor: Passionate about quality and where my ingredients come from.
When money and calories aren’t a concern, what do you splurge on?
What is your favorite cheap meal on the fly?
Reagan: Plan A: Clif Bar. Plan B: Tacos.
Best meal you’ve had this week?
Taylor: I can’t remember what I ate this week.
Go-to drink at the end of the day?
Reagan: The number one thing for coffee people to be drinking is water.
Favorite KC BBQ?
Reagan: Joe’s (Kansas City).
Taylor: Camping somewhere in the mountains.
Which celebrity would you like to serve?
Reagan: Willie Nelson. I think he’d understand the groove of this place.
What would you do if you weren’t a bakery owner?
Reagan: Film director.