Caitlin Makary was never much of a baker. She was too busy with measuring tape and swatches to really be bothered with whisks and measuring spoons.
But she grew out of the fashion industry, where creativity is lacking, and left behind her career at Nautica. When she started rock climbing as a hobby, her creative vision changed. Makary started baking a nutritious vegan banana bread to help her fellow climbers sustain their energy. The climbers couldn’t get enough of it.
Climbing proved to be more than exercise. It not only inspired the idea for her food business, Dank Banana Bread, but gave her the confidence to conquer it by breaking it down into steps. Before that, she had been at the same job for seven years and never imagined owning her own business. “I feel like it gave me a lot of confidence to try other things, getting the comfort level of feeling scared or anxious and still being able to do something despite that,” she said.
Makary started with what she knew: looking at the business from a design perspective. Her sister, who lived in Bushwick for years and now lives in Long Island, is her mentor, a huge asset for someone new to the food business. Her sister also works in food, and the two were living together when Caitlin started tinkering with banana bread.
So what’s the magic formula?
Mostly brown and spotty bananas, of course, flax seeds instead of eggs and coconut oil instead of butter. The recipe also has brown sugar. The goal is a good balance of protein, fat and carbs to tide you over, but not make you overly full, Makary explained.
“It’s probably healthier than the average pastry, but it’s still a pastry,” she said.
One thing she loves about baking is that there’s no “edit” button. The final product has to have the exact same amounts of each ingredient, forcing complete focus on performing each step perfectly every single time.
Due to the Pilotworks shutdown, the company’s production moved to a facility near Jersey City at the end of October. Many businesses are still scrambling to figure out their futures for production after the incubator space closed abruptly.
“People need that start-up space,” Makary said. “We wouldn’t be where we are if that space hadn’t existed for the two years we worked there — and now it’s gone. It does change the landscape of things.”
But her company’s output was outgrowing that space anyway. Dank Banana Bread became an LLC in January 2016. The bread was first delivered by motorcycle; now it’s delivered by cargo bikes. Many current retailers have been buying the bread since 2016, including Father Knows Best, Brooklyn Boulders and 61 Local. Makary is planning something special to celebrate their “Dankiversaries.”
With solid footing in the food world, Makary is ready for more creative challenges. She debuted a pumpkin bread this past fall and will likely sell it again next fall. She also wants to develop a DIY banana bread kit and bring back some Dank swag.
But for loyal fans—climbers, coffee nerds and more—this thick, hearty banana bread is enough to energize them to reach new heights, even during their busiest days.
All photos courtesy of Dank Banana Bread.