The old Danella Photographic building is empty, save some ladders, some two-by-fours and a bronze circular wood-fire oven.
Smack dab in the middle of the space, Ron Bazan looks at the burnished metal, imagining what kind of loaves of bread the oven will eventually dole out. It can take up to 81 pounds of dough.
He smiles when he talks dough, especially the edible kind he'll be making in the months to come. Breads thick with whole grains, flavored and cured with cheeses and wines.
It's not only knowledge he's gained in the 10 years he's informally taught himself to bake in his home kitchen, or the five he's earnestly taken classes and researched the subject, however. It's in his blood.
When developing his own batch of raisin-dotted babka bread, he could go off of his family's recipe. A decades-old recipe that should be familiar to some families in the area who used to buy breads, wedding cakes and pastries from Bazan's Bakery on Lincoln Avenue in Utica.
In the early weeks of the year, Bazan hopes his business will continue his family's legacy bakery, a business cut short by flame and loss. He wants to put his own flair on the bakery, now at 8636 Seneca Turnpike, still carrying his family's surname.
He said he will stick mainly to breads and flat-bread pizzas made in an "old-world" way, as pastries are tough to regulate in the wood-fired kiln. Local ingredients, including the wood from Mohawk Valley Hardwoods to feed the flames, will be a key in the bakery's regeneration.
"I feel nervous to live up to the expectations," he said. "It's a whole different product line."
Bazan's great-grandfather acquired the business anchored at 1110 Lincoln Ave. in 1923, also known at the time as the White Eagle Bakery. Mills lined the streets and crowds from nearby Holy Trinity Church would stop in after Sunday Mass, Bazan said.
"It was always busy, it was a huge hub at the time," he said, vaguely remembering the trolley cars running in front of the store.
The business stood in the same spot for six decades until the bakery and the upstairs apartment were felled by a fire in October 1983. The blaze and smoke killed 72-year-old Mary Bazan, sister of the owners at the time, O-D reports said. Two teenagers were indicted and sentenced for her death and intentionally setting the fire months later.
Some family members have been sampling his recipes, which he tweaks as he goes along. But he's most nervous - and excited - to see what the locals have to say.
"Customer reaction is big," he said. "I hope they really enjoy the products."