After 20 years in the business, our Anchorage, Alaska location continues to be the leader of the pack among the most successful Great Harvest bakeries. Their secret to success? Bakery owners Dirk and Barb, partners in life and in the business, are adamant about the fundamentals: product quality and customer service. In addition, and perhaps most significantly, they infuse their business with heart and soul. Their involvement with and commitment to people - their customers, employees, and the whole community - is unmatched. They’re quick to cite mentors in the Great Harvest system who helped inspire them on the path of generosity, but they’ve taken it to a whole new level.
At a recent 20th bakery birthday party attended by 50-plus friends and fans, Dirk (to his surprise) received a Legislative Citation, a prestigious award honoring him for his community & public service. On top of all their other community involvement, Dirk recently finished a four year stint as President of one of Anchorage’s most active neighborhood community councils. Dirk was quick to emphasize that Barb is as deserving as he is of that award. While he’s in the bakery every day running the business, Barb has continued to contribute tremendously behind the scenes. Operating the bakery has been a partnership for them since the beginning. Barb says the bakery was Dirk’s vision and dream, but I know she has always been there in a supporting role.
Before Great Harvest had a marketing department, Barb spearheaded the development of a marketing system; remnants of that system remain throughout a number of bakeries. A lawyer by trade, Barb retired from her court job a year ago, and has time to spend writing community and creative pieces. Dirk told me proudly that she’s won awards and that many of her pieces have been published. The success of the bakery has provided her time to follow creative pursuits (to the benefit of the rest of us!)
The caring community they’ve created and facilitated is far reaching. Dirk recounted all the wonderful young people who have come through the bakery, including Wendy, who was there in the beginning, and still works part time. She told Dirk, “I know I can always come back to you and you’re my rock.” Some of the kids that came through on kindergarten tours are now in their 20’s; many have become customers or employees. The second generation of Great Harvesters. People come and go, but “they always come back in some form.” Brian, who has been there a good 15 years, is the “soul and heart” of the bakery in Dirk’s words. Appreciating and treating their people well has helped them create a successful bakery. It has also given them the ability and time to travel and participate in the outdoor recreation they love, while they leave their store in capable hands. Dirk says “it’s the best job I’ve ever had.”
Three years ago, they remodeled and expanded the store to add seating for their sandwich crowd. They understand the need to keep it fresh, to keep up with the times. But they’re unwavering when it comes to “sticking to the fundamentals” they learned from Great Harvest early on – fundamentals of bread quality, customer service, a good environment to get customers back, and giving generously back to the community. Those fundamentals continue to serve them well. They’ve seen competition over the years, but they’ve held their ground with their top notch quality and position as the everyday neighborhood fresh (hot!) bread store. As Dirk put it, “Anchorage rewards quality.”
Their outreach into the community includes partnerships with schools, some that are under-served. The partnership involves more than a simple donation, but is a giving relationship that takes the time to understand needs and respond accordingly. Anchorage is one of the most diverse cities in the country. Over 90 different languages are spoken there, and one of its elementary schools is the most diverse in the entire country. While they’re passionate about their own philosophies and beliefs, Dirk and Barb have made a focused effort to make their bakery a place where everyone feels comfortable. Dirk explained how the bakery is the ideal vehicle for generosity and support to the community. His career as a mechanical engineer could not have provided that same opportunity.
The Great Harvest bakery of Anchorage brings diverse people together in a safe and fun atmosphere where no one is judged, all are welcomed and accepted. The breadboard ─where everyone gets a free slice─ is a symbol of generosity. People leave the store, slice of great bread in hand, with broad smiles on their faces. Their day is a little brighter, and in a world where polarization and divisiveness is far too prevalent, they feel part of a caring community. All brought about by the work of two caring people who want to make a difference in Anchorage, and ultimately the world. Thanks, Dirk and Barb, for your inspiration and action.
Read more about Barb and Dirk's Anchorage, AK Great Harvest Bakery:
- Local Small Business Owners Give Back to the Anchorage Community
- Experiencing a Bakery Franchise in Action: Anchorage, AK