Stemilt apple bread and social responsibility at Great Harvest Bread Co.

Today I spoke with Chris Skalisky, owner of Wenatchee’s Great Harvest Bread Company, about owning a small business in a recession, giving back to the community and fresh apple bread.

Chris Skalisky, owner of Great Harvest Bread Co. in Wenatchee

Great Harvest Bread Company is actually a franchise headquartered in Dylan, Mont., and was founded in 1975 by a young newly-married couple who started baking bread to pay their way through college. They got so good at it that after college they moved to Montana and opened a bakery.

The franchise could be better described as network of independently owned and operated bakeries that share successful regional recipes and a philosophy of individuality. Skalisky called it a “freedom franchise.”

“They’re a bunch of hippie rebels,” she said. “It’s kind of like the un-franchise franchise.”

Skalisky owns the store with her husband, Kyle, and they’ve created a few of their own recipes, including their apple crunch yeast bread and apple spice batter bread, which they bake using apples from Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee. The apple bread is popular but their signature is the raspberry cream pie, she said.

They don’t use any frozen dough in their bread – all their wheat comes directly from farmers in Montana and is milled on a stone grinder in the back of the shop.

Though they’ve considered offering organic products, Skalisky said they decided against it. She said organics sell better on the West side of the state.

“We just don’t have the market for (organic). It’s just too expensive,” she said.

Skalisky said they have built up a profitable business and that’s all they could ask for in this economy.

“We’d all like to be busier but just to survive in this economy is good,” she said.

Skalisky and her staff do a lot of what could be called “pro bono baking” – and sometimes they’ll come in on their day off to bake for worthy causes. They’ve raised funds for local charity events, races and to support the local humane society.

“The community really appreciates it,”she said.

After the earthquake in Haiti she and her staff came in to work on a Sunday, opened the shop and donated all the day’s profits to Haitian relief. The community got behind their efforts and at the end of the day they’d raised $3,500.

“I had people handing me $100 bills for two loaves of bread.”

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