Florence Nightingale believed that nursing was her calling similarly Beth Thorp, former nurse now owner and founder of Nightingale Breads in Forestville, has turned the making of bread into her life work. Her shop is named in honor of the famous caregiver.
For years Beth worked tirelessly as a traveling nurse and while she loved the patient interaction she loathed the corporate grind and longed for something simpler and creative.
“I started feeling like I was getting lost in the system and while nursing was rewarding in many ways the writing on the wall became clear. All paths were leading to me being a 65 year old crotchety nurse and that is something I truly wanted to avoid,” said Beth.
The seed of the “Nightingale Bread” idea came while she was living in Montana. Beth was making bread as a hobby and often wondered if she could actually make a career out of her passion. So she started working in a bakery full time to hone her skills knowing that this was the first step to owning her own bakery.
When she was ready to make the move from nursing patients to making bread Beth began searching for a location in Napa with a potential partner. Luckily for Sonoma her search for space resulted in nothing. Someone mentioned the town of Forestville to Beth as a potential spot for a future bakery. This peaked her interest as her grandmother had grown up in Forestville. Months later a building came on the market on Forestville's main street and she immediately saw it's potential and put an offer on the space.
Like any small business owner on day one Beth worried. “This was not like opening a retail shop with pre-made product on the shelves. I had to make the bread and if it didn’t turn out right or people did not like it I feared that my dream would be shattered,” she said. Those dreams were far from shattered and on December 18th , 2008 the doors opened and the community welcomed her with open arms.
Nightingale keeps it simple. Initially she was producing five breads including her famed Forestville French, but then she has expanded into other breads. While some complain that her doors should be open more often (she operates Wednesday thru Saturday) Beth feels that her limited hours and limited selection keep the quality where it needs to be and her product more exclusive and special. “I’d rather do one thing really well than do 17 things just average,” she believes.
Her philosophy is that when you love what you do it comes out in the product you make. “I feel really fortunate that I have the chance to do this. Bread making is more than just a job for me it is my passion.”