ST. PETERSBURG — A new artisan bread bakery is opening in St. Petersburg early next year.The Crumb Factory, which will serve naturally leavened loaves plus a selection of French pastries, sandwiches and breakfast dishes, will open in January at 5701 Central Ave.The new business is a team effort from childhood friends Pablo Mardones and Felipe Zavala. Both grew up in Chile but now live in St. Petersburg. (Mardones, who is also a district manager at Chipotle, lives here full time while Zavala splits his time between St. Pete and Santiago, Chile’s capital city.)The duo eyed the local bakery scene and saw room for growth.“In Chile, we have a really big bread culture,” Mardones said. “Bread is present in every meal. We’re both foodies and have a passion for cooking, and we wanted to offer something that’s not really available here in the city.”Zavala, who attended a baking institute in Chile, designed the bread program at the bakery with a focus on sourdough loaves, which are leavened using natural fermentation techniques instead of relying on commercial yeasts. The breads will be baked in a three-deck bread oven sourced from France, which provides the steam that lends most artisan breads’ characteristic crispy, chewy crusts.“It’s something that has its own character and life,” Zavala said. “You have to take care of the dough and keep it at the right temperature.”“We’re trying to stay away from anything processed,” Mardones said. “I think we are looking for something that is a little alternative — a little more healthy and wholesome.”Though not officially open yet, the pair have been experimenting with the local clientele by selling some of their loaves through direct orders online. The response has been positive, they said.The new business will take over the space formerly home to Rae Rae’s Cafe, a neighborhood diner with a loyal local following, which closed in September 2019. Though the 2,400-square-foot space will function primarily as a bakery, Mardones and Zavala say they plan on serving breakfast and lunch, pastries and sandwiches as well as charcuterie to-go.As for the bread selection, they plan on selling 2-pound sourdough country loaves, whole wheat loaves, sesame seed-crusted loaves, baguettes, ciabatta and others breads, which will feature a mix of wheat and rye flours. There will also be a selection of pastries like classic croissants and pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants) and cruffins, among others. Zavala said they are currently looking to partner with a locally owned coffee company for their espresso program and are in talks with a group of Florida farmers and cheese producers for their cheese and charcuterie program.Mardones said they are shooting for a mid-January opening and will start with breakfast and lunch service before possibly exploring a late afternoon or early dinner program.