Loss of a dear friend
It’s with a heavy heart I write this blog about dear friend Jack Corkey, long-time owner of the Herndon, VA Great Harvest Bread store. Jack died unexpectedly at his home in early January, leaving in his wake a legacy of life lived to the fullest, a highly successful bread business, outstanding service to his community, and last but not least, kindness and laughter shared with all he encountered. Though the sadness comes in waves, it’s hard to feel sad for long because I know Jack wouldn’t want that. I hear his laugh and see his smile, and feel his assurance that all is well. Jack is exploring new realms, and the last thing he would want is for us to be bogged down in grief. He loved life and lived every minute of it; he would only wish the same for us. Jack’s remembrance services were full to overflowing with people who loved this man and had wonderful stories to tell about their experiences and friendships with him.
Though I could write volumes about Jack’s life, my focus here is to look at how Jack impacted his business and all the people associated with it.
Success in the Bread Business
Jack and his wife Laurie launched Virginia’s first Great Harvest Bread Company in Herndon, VA in 1990. (Laurie is amazing in her own right, the quiet “behind the scenes” rock solid partner. She and Jack were perfect together in all things. Our hearts go out to her.) Though Jack’s life took many turns, he hit his career stride and greatest success with the bakery. Last year, Jack and Laurie sold to employee, Tim Groszkowski and his wife, Jesse. As if they were their own kids, Jack and Laurie happily passed the torch to them. At the 2010 Annual Convention, the Corkeys were inducted into the “Hall of Fame” for their contributions to Great Harvest. Jack was so pleased, at the end of December last year, when Tim and Jess had their first year behind them and the store was doing well. Built on a rock solid foundation, the Herndon bakery continues to provide a stellar example of a well-run business.
The Heart of the Business
Jack was proud to be a part of Great Harvest and of his efforts to live up to his website motto: darngoodbread.com. But it was much more than great bread that made the store successful. Jack infused the business with his being. He epitomized “Be Loose and Have Fun” with his love of life, sense of humor, and infectious laugh. I remember opening the door to their store, and hearing Jack’s laugh above all the noise of the store. His laughter was genuine, not contrived. In fact, there was nothing contrived about this man. Jack could be as feisty about the things he was upset with as he was happy about the things he loved. He was authentic.
Generosity and Love’s Full Circle
From the onset, the Herndon bakery was a strong supporter of charitable events and organizations. But it wasn’t just business. Jack was known for his personal generosity. His genuine caring and kindness extended to every person who entered the store, customers and employees alike. The following quotes from his customers and employees are just a few examples of the impact he had…
“So much of Jack’s spirit and personality went into the store and everything he did.”
“We all love Great Harvest bread, and his warmth and friendly personality made it a special place…”
“…I have been a devoted customer for years. Jack’s great smile was a wonderful gift to everyone. How friendly he was and very kind…”
“…We loved Jack! What a loving and kind man.”
“He was a great man – a cornerstone of Herndon. Our family will miss him greatly.”
“He left an indelible mark on the community.”
“He was such a joyful spirit…”
“We will miss Jack so much. He was an everlasting gift to us all.”
“Jack’s spirit and passion for life will be greatly missed.”
“Going to that store makes me whole again…”
“The world is a better place – and people who were lucky enough to be around him are better people. He will be missed.”
“Who did not adore Jack? No one! He made my day every time I came to the bakery or saw him on the street… He made my family, my office, my injured and grieving clients all feel welcome and wonderful. He was my neighbor, my friend, and my baker…”
“Jack will be greatly missed, and be kept in my heart. As an employee, I will always appreciate all the skills he taught me over the years and use those to become a better person…”
“Jack was a wonderful person who had a zest for life…he was an excellent boss who cared about every person he encountered…”
It Really IS all about the people
There can be no doubt; the spirit of Jack Corkey was the catalyst that created a network of friends and community that catapulted this business to the level of success it achieved.
In the end, our lives, our businesses, all we do is really about people. It’s about connecting, loving, and making friendships in all walks of our lives. Jack completely exemplified this. He lived life from his heart and we are all the better for it. Thank you, Jack! We love you and will miss you greatly.
Anyone out there who has been a customer of Jack's?