On a recent trip to Honolulu, I had the good fortune to work with a young couple who rekindled my love for Great Harvest — a company I’ve worked with for the last 27+ years. Though Great Harvest’s whole grain breads, baked goodies and sandwiches are the best you can find anywhere, my true love of Great Harvest revolves around its people. Great Harvest attracts the best of them, as evidenced most recently by my visit to Honolulu.
During my visit, I asked Tyler Kimura, a relatively new owner of the Great Harvest Kahala Honolulu bakery how he found out about Great Harvest. It’s not the usual story we hear. Tyler decided in his mid-twenties that he wanted to have his own business. He began searching online and discovered a bakery for sale on his home island of Oahu, HI. After a thorough process of looking at a couple of bakeries and negotiating price, he bought the Great Harvest bakery in the Kahala shopping area of Honolulu in August of 2012. Now, 3 ½ years later, both the store and Tyler are doing great.
There are several cool overlapping stories in this saga. Kelly was the manager of the existing store when Tyler took it over. As with any management change, she was wondering how things would go with new ownership. Tyler and Kelly discovered they enjoyed working together and had a similar vision for the store. In time, they realized their affinity and love for each other as well as their shared enjoyment of the business. They got married a couple of months ago and were able to buy their own condo because the business is doing so well.
I’ve always enjoyed talking with Tyler, but visiting him in his own store was an eye-opener about what a remarkable young man he is. His work ethic, passion for quality, problem-solving ability, and last but not least, his compassion for and appreciation of people reminded me of all the reasons I first fell in love with Great Harvest.
Tyler told me that shortly after he became part of Great Harvest, he realized what a remarkable group of people the company embraced.
He recounted a few examples:
- Mike Scheel, owner of the Salem, OR Great Harvest stores, who spent hours with him talking about the business and mentoring him;
- His friends (and fellow bakery owners) Jeffrey and Jeanette in Burke, VA who offered a place to stay when he and Kelly toured the DC area;
- His friend Mike Stoker who owns the Kennewick, WA Great Harvest.
And those are just a few of the bakery owners he’s connected with. Networking has always been one of the great perks of bakery ownership with Great Harvest, the ability to connect with an amazing community of people. Tyler has taken good advantage of that opportunity.
When I began my own journey with this company, I met people who were larger than life to me. Bakery owners Scott & Sally Creevy in Boulder, CO, Sally Weissman and Tom Amundson in Minneapolis, MN, Bill & Peggy Dial in Albuquerque, NM, Pete Rysted in Great Falls, to name a few. And of course, my bosses Pete and Laura Wakeman, those out-of-the-box thinkers who brought a quirky, fun, and exciting neighborhood whole wheat bread company to fruition in the mid 70’s.
All of these pioneers invested in a newborn business. They eventually became lifelong friends as well as people I admire. I couldn’t pick a better group of friends. Those irreplaceable Great Harvest friendships also include my co-workers at the Franchise office, many of whom have been there well over 20 years.
In a new era, under new ownership, Great Harvest continues to attract and represent a group of people who care about quality, hands-on delivery of wonderful products, connecting to customers and creating an oasis in a world that can be impersonal and cold. Coming together over great food and home-baked breads and goodies, Great Harvest continues to be an unusual gathering place for remarkable people.
Thank you, Tyler and Kelly Kimura, for reminding me of why I love Great Harvest!
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