Buns Bakery Rebrands as Navad Bakers and Increases Production to Whole Foods Markets
After relocating multiple times, the moment was right for owner Guy Hanuka to change the business name to something that better reflects his cultural background and story.
The vast kitchen inside a commercial building in East Providence is buzzing with activity as the team from Navad Bakers prepares dough for Israeli-inspired challah and cinnamon-layered babka at different stations. “Challah supervisor” John Wild and baker Erickson Ramos each roll out a snake-like section of dough with their hands on a long wooden table, then quickly turn the dough and twist it into braids to form loaves. For the babka, twelve layers of butter flecked-laminated dough are interspersed with sheets of cinnamon and sugar to form one long log of dough. On a stainless steel work surface, each of the women bakers, Delilah Adames, Julia Ouellette and Daniella Wesoloskie, cuts the dough formations vertically in half and weaves the two sections into twists that are then molded into loaves.
In the back kitchen space, Navad owner Guy Hanuka and Kirstie Vandemortele wheel racks of proofed buns out of the proofer and then load metal trays full of the raw mounds of dough dotted with sesame seeds onto racks to go into the oven. Soon these dozens of trays of buns will be baked to golden brown, cooled and packaged, and ready to be delivered to Chomp Kitchen and Drinks restaurants in Warren and Providence.
Hanuka is from Israel, and after completing four years in the army there, which was mandatory, he took an interest in baking. In Israel, he says, everyone grows up with challah and babka and he wanted to properly learn how to make it himself.
“It’s our main staple in Israel, so every bakery you go, you make babka,” Hanuka says. “That’s part of the life.”
He learned from mentors at Israeli bakeries, and then in 2017, enrolled at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina, to complete more formal instruction.
After graduation, he relocated to the Providence area, and started his bakery, called Buns Bakery at the time, in the heat of the pandemic in 2020. He practiced out of his home, then gravitated to Hope and Main in Warren to increase production in a commercial kitchen setting.
Originally, he thought he might call the bakery Nomad, because he identifies with the word from moving around so much. But he didn’t think his customers would understand the background of the branding. Back then, he landed on Buns Bakery as a business name, but still felt no connection to the name.
Hanuka travels back and forth between Israel and Rhode Island, and says, “I feel like we are all nomads.” Originally, he wanted his bakery name to reflect that. When he and Hope & Main founder Lisa Raiola originally discussed the name for the business, she asked him what the Hebrew name for nomad is.
“I said ‘Navad,’ and her eyes opened up, like that’s the name,” he says.
He outgrew Hope & Main after only six months, but still decided to keep the Buns Bakery name.
“At the time, there was no Jewish bakery in the community, so it spread out quickly,” Hanuka says.
He moved the business to a new, larger production facility on Royal Little Drive in Providence, but unfortunately, that location didn’t last long either.
In mid-April 2022, Hanuka found out that Buns Bakery was about to be evicted from their Providence production space. He received notice that they had two-and-a-half months to find a new location. Not only that, but he would need new equipment for his team, and a space that would be large enough to handle their ever-expanding operation.
At the time, Buns Bakery shared the facility with three other businesses, goTeff, Malted Barley and Top This! Pizza Crusts. The location was bought by Seven Stars Bakery and all four small businesses were forced to relocate. “Where do you move in two-and-a-half months? We were too big to go back to Hope & Main,” Hanuka says.
Luckily, he found an even better, bigger location in East Providence – the former More! Foods space, a seafood supplier – where he and his team of twelve would have enough space to handle orders that are sold at local farmers markets and small retail shops, and now regionally at Dave’s Marketplace and Whole Foods markets branching out toward Boston. Next came securing new equipment. He and his team traveled to Florida to bring back ovens large enough to fit multiple racks of challah bread and buns at a time, as well as to New Jersey to bring back a proofer.
“Back then it was the worst thing that happened to us,” Hanuka says. “But it turned out to be the best thing that happened to us.”
“We had to learn how to set up a bakery in only two months,” he adds.
Hanuka has been through a lot over the last year, but he never gave up hope. “I’m running on eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, and I love it,” he says. “Being a baker is my calling. Every single thing, from the deliveries to washing the dishes, it’s all part of something that comes natural to me.”
While the move was happening, and after running the bakery for three years and expanding production to Whole Foods Markets, Hanuka finally felt the time was right to rename his bakery. They rebranded to Navad to better reflect what the business means to him and all they have been through.
“It’s the perfect timing for the rebranding with the move and expansion,” he says. “I’m just really proud of it because we got to the point where my team is running the company.”
The nomadic baker has curated an amazing team, including Shay-lynn Allan, who manages the front operations to ready orders for packaging and delivery, and Daniella Wesoloskie, who handles the behind-the-scenes baking production.
Wesoloskie started with the company as an intern when she was a sophomore at Johnson and Wales University. Hanuka called her in for a 5 a.m. interview and she was fifteen minutes early. She got the job, and since then, has been a crucial part of the operation, especially when they suddenly moved locations while increasing wholesale production.
“It made us who we are today,” Wesoloskie says. “As hard as it was in the middle of it, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
“She’s really part of the reason we survived that move. She was at the front of it,” Hanuka adds.
Meanwhile, Shay-lynn Allan handles everything Hanuka used to do by himself to get the products to market. “It’s as if I split myself in two, and they each took a part of my role,” Hanuka says.
Not only can Navad Bakery be found across the state at local markets, but area restaurants are also using their buns. The new Chomp Kitchen and Drinks in Warren as well as their Providence location use the seeded buns for sandwiches and burgers, and Hope & Main Downtown Makers Market uses their bread and buns for sandwiches and sells babka, rugelah, challah and more. Feast and Fettle also relies on Navad for sandwiches and customers can have their products delivered through Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s mobile delivery service. The products can even be delivered across the United States through Gold Belly, a national website for regional foods.
While Hanuka is proud that Navad has made it to the shelves of larger markets, he still focuses his attention on the smaller clients. “Whole Foods is a great way to put the product on a national level but our identity is the small local markets and that activity that we see is the essence of who we are,” he says.
Even as it grows and expands production, Navad Bakers continues to support other small businesses. Not all who wander are lost. instagram.com/navadbakers