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Great Harvest Bread changing hands

Posted by Geeky Swedes on November 29th, 2010

Updated: It’s the end of an era for Bob and Crystal Carlson. After nearly 12 years as owners of the Great Harvest Bread (2218 NW Market St) on Market Street, the couple is handing over the keys to a couple passionate about bread. “It is really a case of ‘the right people at the right time’,” Crystal tells us.

Ballardites Mark and Jackie Winkler were some of the original customers of Great Harvest when the Carlsons first opened and have always thought about owning the shop. Six years ago the Winklers moved to the east coast but the thought of owning a Great Harvest Bread never escaped them. Three years ago when they began to pursue their dream, they landed at the Great Harvest Bread Franchise Office in Montana. At the office, the Winklers had inside information about stores that were for sale. One day, Ballard popped up on the report. “Oh my God, our dream store is now open for sale,” Mark tells us. “I know that Bob and Crystal weren’t actively trying to sell it, but they had had some inquiries and as a result it ended up on the list.”

“We never had plans to close our bakery,” Crystal says, “These guys just called us up one Sunday and told us they were in love with our bakery and that was their dream store and wondered if there was ever any chance that we would be willing to consider selling it or partnering up on another location in our territory. And that began a conversation that evolved into us deciding that it would be fun to try our hands at something new and let some new people love and grow what we had built.”

A few weeks ago the Winklers moved back to Ballard to run the shop.

The Winklers have plans to grow and change the Great Harvest on Market Street, but not for awhile. “We’re not going to be doing anything right away,” Mark tells us, “We’re just kind of gonna get comfortable with where we’re at and see how things go.”

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33 reader comments so far ↓

  • 1 Fran // Nov 29, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Their dream is owning a crummy bakery?


  • 2 Dweezil // Nov 29, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Are the new owners planning to move back from the East coast? I can’t imagine operating their dream shop from thousands of miles away.

  • 3 Ric // Nov 29, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    How do bakeries make money? Even the good ones like Macrina and Besalu must struggle to turn a penny. Even if they sold 100 loafs or pastries a day you’re looking at what ,$400, maybe $500 gross? And that’s the busier ones.Then there’s the rent to be paid, the workers, utilities, etc. It must be like living on $30 a day.

  • 4 msballard30 // Nov 29, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Congratulations! We’re going to miss you Crystal and Bob. And thanks for all of your donations to local community groups over the years.

  • 5 Jaybay Kay // Nov 29, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Yes, congratulations! Running a bakery would be a tough business, but I bet it’s very rewarding. I for one could not get up that early, so I admire those who do.

    Let’s hope the negative nasties don’t run roughshod all over this story, like they have so many others. If you can’t say something nice, people, go get some psychiatric help.

  • 6 Anonymous // Nov 29, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Your dream of one day being human just edged a little bit farther out of reach.

  • 7 Geeky Swedes // Nov 29, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Dweezil – Thank you for the comment. I clarified the post that the Winklers moved back to Ballard to run the shop. ~Kate

  • 8 twa514 // Nov 30, 2010 at 12:21 am

    I guess you can’t be in it just for the dough.

  • 9 Kateo // Nov 30, 2010 at 12:33 am

    I’m a former Ballardite (20 years) who moved to Dillon, Montana and worked with Mark and Jackie at the Great Harvest “Breadquarters.” After joining Great Harvest, it was clear Mark was a talented baker and he started doing R&D for the company. I felt SO blessed to have an office above the test kitchen! Mark is a phenomenal artisan baker. Jackie is equally amazing as a business person, friend, mom, etc., etc… We miss them back in Montana, but are very excited they followed in the footsteps of the Carlsons, who are talented, generous, wonderful people. Definitely a case of the “right people at the right time.”

  • 10 Pho // Nov 30, 2010 at 12:38 am

    Who dreams of owning a franchise?

    Oh yes, someday I hope to open a Subway!! And any comments criticizing such mundane aspiration MUST BE REMOVED BY THE CENSORSHIP SWEDES.

  • 11 Pho // Nov 30, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Nice spin. Artisan baker? Doesn’t Great Harvest require all shops to follow the same rules?

  • 12 The Norwegian // Nov 30, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Being your own boss is an “American dream” to many, including myself. Perhaps it’s not for everybody. But don’t bash it until you’ve done it. Certainly are a lot of “experts” out there though with salty opinions. I’m glad many posters don’t run anything but their mouths, as they’d last a month in biz with attitudes/ideals they cling to. I for one will simply go buy their bread (because it’s good) and show ’em support. Still pro-choice when it comes to bread!

  • 13 Grubby Ballard // Nov 30, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    What’s wrong with Wonder Bread? It’s what old Ballard eats not this fancy $5 a loaf yuppie stuff.

  • 14 Bob // Dec 1, 2010 at 12:18 am

    It’s not snobby to ask that your bread is made fresh, local, and doesn’t have all sorts of preservatives. A loaf of decent bread shouldn’t cost $1, it should cost about $5. I make less than $20,000/yr and I can afford it just fine.

  • 15 Poolish98225 // Dec 1, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Wonder Bread might be soft and squishy, perfect for tuna sandwiches, but nutritionally, it’s junk. I suppose it doesn’t qualify as “empty calories” because it is enriched with nutrients, but the refining process removed most naturally occurring beneficial vitamins and minerals.

    It’s better to eat Wonder Bread than to go hungry. But it’s MUCH better for you to nourish your body from quality bread, whether you pay $5 a loaf for it, or bake it yourself. And “yuppie stuff” cracks me up! Do the “granolas” know the “yuppies” have been given credit for their healthy bread? LOL.

  • 16 ballardmama // Dec 1, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    I’d rather aspire to own a store in a really great franchise than have my highest aspiration to be the biggest troll on a neighborhood forum.

  • 17 ballardmama // Dec 1, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    I’m not sure but my friend owns Westernco and she manages to somehow make ends meet and another friend is a baker at a different Great Harvest. I imagine that buying their ingredients at such large bulk the price goes down quite a bit from what we buy at the grocery store. I think it’s more about doing what you love than getting rich.

  • 18 ballardmama // Dec 1, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    No, the rules are loose as to what each store can do. The owners make independent decisions on many things having to do with their stores within a loose set of perimeters (ie: don’t turn it into a wine bar because that’s not the business plan). I imagine you’re thinking of franchises like McDonalds. In the real world of business a franchise can mean many many different things.

  • 19 Kateo // Dec 3, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Great question, Pho. Great Harvest was founded in a small town in southwestern Montana 30+ years ago by a couple who made fabulous whole grain bread from scratch, using freshly milled whole grains from local farms. At first they sold bread from the street corner and eventually opened a true bakery. When others wanted to learn about their bread making process and sell their products, they formed a structure (freedom franchise) whereby every bakery would be locally owned and operated. There are few rules, beyond using the wheat sourced from family-owned farmers, milling it daily, and blending the fresh whole grain flour with natural ingredients. We have a handful of classic wholegrain breads like Honey Whole Wheat, Dakota and Nine Grain that you’ll find in all bakeries. Beyond that, the owners can create their own recipes, source ingredients and jams, dipping oils, spreads, whatever… locally. Owners could honestly could run a bake shop/bike shop combo if they wanted to. You asked about the word artisan. Breads are never mass produced. They are made from scratch and handcrafted fresh every day. So rules…we have very few. Other than that, you’ll find lots of product variation from bakery to bakery based on what their particular communities love — ethnic breads, hard crusted breads, family recipes, etc. Did that help answer your question? I was a Great Harvest customer in Ballard and loved the place, now I work in the Dillon, MT office where it all started and am very proud of the uniqueness and spirit of the place. So if if my previous comment sounded like spin, it wasn’t. I really think this is a great place that attracts entrepreneurial people who create awesome products. Recently Great Harvest was selected by Outside Magazine as one of the top places to work in the U.S., and we’ve received recognition internationally for being one of the most democratic workplaces by Worldblu. We’re not nirvana, but we do strive to be genuine and non-cookie cutter….

  • 20 Kateo // Dec 3, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    The Winklers are from Ballard, moved to the east coast and then Montana. They missed Ballard. Me, too. I lived in Ballard for 20 happy years. So they’re back and they bake awesome bread….

  • 21 grace // Apr 14, 2011 at 6:34 am

    To Mark and Jackie,

    Congratulations! Be encouraged that you are not just serving the community but feeding the patrons with healthy ,tasty, nutritious bread, as well. I am a small business owner myself and I know the joys of being one comes from above. In todays economy, not a lot of entrepreneurs nor layman could fathom that money isn’t everything. You are a blessing.

    1Thess 11:12 “Make it your ambition to lead a quite life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands…”

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