Jodie Hawthorne | Great Harvest Bread Co
Jodie Hawthorne, Owner, Great Harvest Bread Co:
“I loved baking since I was tall enough to reach the counter. I remember one day telling my mom I wanted pie for dessert, and she pulled out the recipe card and said, “Make it!”“
Born a Baker
She said, “If you want it, here you go…” and I just kind of muddled my way through it. I had a knack for it. I loved it. I always baked. Then, in my twenties, in Charlotte, I worked in a bakery and a catering company for awhile. I spent some time working in the corporate world. I spent a lot of time sitting in a cubicle. And I had a longing to get back in the bakery, back in the kitchen, back on my feet. And here I am.
I have been at this Great Harvest Bread Co since September, but the business has been here for 35 years: at this location for ten years, and 15 years before that on Market Street. The former owner did this for 25 years and was ready to pass the baton, so my husband and I saw that it was for sale and we moved here from Charlotte and bought the bakery.
We had been thinking about opening our own Great Harvest in this area because we just loved it here. We found this opportunity and our five year plan got bumped right up! It was calling our name.
I moved to Charlotte ten or twelve years ago, but I was born and raised in Tennessee.
Lots of Love for Great Harvest
There are several Great Harvest Bread Companies in Charlotte, and we had always been fans of the company. We were exploring opportunities with the company. My husband and I did triathlon training groups and we rode with big groups of people. One of the guys who rode with us occasionally happened to be the CEO of Great Harvest – we didn’t know that was what he did, we just knew he was attached to the company in some way. It was a great coincidence. We had that connection and it all seemed like it was meant to be.
Great Harvest is what we call a “freedom franchise.” We have almost like our own little social network with all the owners, and we get a lot of good training from corporate, and we all share good ideas and best practices. We only have one hard and fast rule: that we mill our wheat that they source from Montana here in bakery.
They source the wheat, we mill it, and bake fresh daily. Those are our rules. Apart from that, we can do what we want. The other owners really collaborate and share. We have tried and true tested recipes that we all use. If someone finds something really great, they share it with the other owners. Like this year, we all used the King Cake recipe that the Louisiana store owner had.
Baked Goods Wilmington Loves
There are regional differences; the market will gravitate toward what they like and there are trends that we see. A lot of the Great Harvest originally had round loaves. A lot of the bakeries in other parts of the country still lean heavily on those round loaves. Here, Southern folks prefer rectangles and sandwich loaves. We still do round ones, but they are not our best sellers. I’ll do a few, and the cheese breads are round, but people are like, I don’t know what to do with round bread. That’s one difference.
There are some tastes and flavors that some folks like in different places. We are going to add a pimento cheese sandwich to our lineup. Here, you’ve got to have your pimento cheese.
We do a lot of pies here, which doesn’t surprise me! I grew up making pies, and every holiday is pie time. Around the rest of the country, that’s not the case. We do pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas – we did in the 700 pie range for those days, and it just knocked the socks off some of the other owners around the country. Wilmington people love their pies. Pumpkin, pecan and apple. Those are the big ones. We also do a mixed berry pie, and a chocolate pecan.
From Bread to Sandwiches
I cook at home, but I keep it pretty simple. I bake once in a while. If it’s my husband’s birthday, I’ll bake a cake, and I will bake for the kids. My husband does the lion’s share of cooking now because I work crazy hours. We eat very simply. I like to cook a big pot of curry when I have time. That’s my comfort food. I really love baking here. I usually bring stuff home from here, we have some many good things.
The kids come “work” here too, but they are young. My husband does marketing, and he’s fix-it man. We added the space in here to make room to serve sandwiches, which is our new menu line. The sandwich menu and service is starting to grow. We’ve been doing it for about two months. Great Harvest is a good option for people who work close to this store, and we have a nice clientele of regulars. We are doing catering as well. We do box lunches, and we’ve done sandwich trays or sweets trays. That’s taking off and it’s a good new effort.
We are in the bread business for as long as we can do it. We are having so much fun. It’s really neat that you walk into a Great Harvest and they are all a little different based on what the owner likes. This is a real bakery, which is different than a franchise with pre-packaged items. Our baker comes in at 5am, mills our fresh wheat every morning, and we mix everything here, and knead, and bake every single day.
Check out the website for
Great Harvest Bread in Wilmington NC. Stop in for a loaf of bread, a sandwich, or something sweet. And grab some biscuits for your dog, too.