UT students recall memories of Texas French Bread after fire destroys bakery

Hope Unger, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the January 28, 2022 flipbook.

The Austin Fire Department responded to a fire at Texas French Bread in North Campus on Monday evening. Everyone inside the building got out safely before the flames destroyed the building.

The initial 911 call came in at 10:50 p.m. and AFD arrived on the scene two minutes later, according to AFD division chief Thayer Smith. Smith said the fire was an accident caused by an oven vent mechanical failure. The fire caused about $1.1 million in structural damage and $500,000 in losses from contents inside of the building, Smith said.

“It was in the attic,” Smith said. “That’s why it got going so good and (employees) didn’t see it because the fire was above them. It was through the roof when (AFD) got there.”

Megan Thomas, a bakery packing employee at Texas French Bread who witnessed the fire, said the staff felt like family.

“One of my favorite things was that we would have a family meal every night that the kitchen staff would make us,” said Thomas, a biochemistry and psychology senior. “It wouldn’t just be something that they threw together, like leftovers. It was usually the type of quality that they would be serving out to the guests.”

Thomas said even though it was a service industry job, Texas French Bread felt like a community, and everyone on staff was a part of each other’s lives outside of work.

“For future jobs, (Texas French Bread) definitely raised my standard of what a job should be,” Thomas said. “Everyone was so communicative and compassionate towards each other.”

Bennett Burke, a history and political communications junior, said he worked at Texas French Bread in 2021. During one stressful shift, the bakery manager came to him to ask if he was okay after seeing his distress, Burke said.

“It was a very human moment,” Burke said. “Somebody whose job wasn’t even serving, who didn’t really know me that well, wanted to make sure I was alright. It had a feeling of a very close-knit team that worked together well.”

Burke said he learned about the history of Texas French Bread from a customer one day at work. According to KVUE, the building opened in 1939, and at the time of opening, it was home to a neighborhood grocery store. The building was the Rome Inn before Texas French Bread was established in 1981, according to its website.

Burke listed Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lou Ann Barton and the Thunderbirds as a few of many artists that played at the Rome Inn, which served pizza by day and housed music gigs by night.

“It sort of feels symbolic of what Austin’s experiencing right now,” Burke said. “All that’s local and historical and community-oriented sort of feels like it’s burning down and it’s getting very corporatized.”

After the fire, the community flooded social media with posts about personal memories of Texas French Bread. A friend of the bakery’s owners created a GoFundMe to support the staff that, at the time of publishing, had raised over $150,000.

“I know this is such a strong community and everyone is so supportive that we’ll be able to pull together and keep Texas French Bread alive, even if it takes a year or two to rebuild everything,” Thomas said.