Bread of Life
Great Harvest Bread Company Feeds a Community
Ian Kidd knows a thing or two about having a hearty appetite. As a defenseman for the University of North Dakota and later for the Vancouver Canucks, he needed to eat plenty to keep up his strength. Now, he’s feeding the next generation. Together with his wife, Elizabeth, he owns Duluth’s Great Harvest Bread Company. His store is a franchise of the national chain, which offers freshly baked bread and baked goods, hearty sandwiches, and coffee in 200 locations. He decided to open his own location in 1996 after visiting one of the stores himself.
“We ate the product, we liked the environment,” Kidd says. “It just seemed like kind of a fun place to go to work.”
Since I’ve never worked there, I can’t confirm that, but Kidd seemed to be in his element on a recent weekday. He talked shop with one of his employees and greeted customers as they walked through the door, sometimes pausing to sip coffee from a Great Harvest Bread Company mug. Later, a woman bought three bags of bread and came over to say hi. She told Kidd that her daughter was having a sleepover to celebrate her eleventh birthday, and that the bread was just what the girls wanted.
“We make a great product,” Kidd says. “No additives, no preservatives, made from scratch.”
There are two elements to the store—the coffee side and the baking side. The bakery is large and impressive, with shelf after shelf of freshly baked bread, scones, and cinnamon rolls. For the dogs, there are special doggy biscuits. For their owners, there are special bread flavors. Kidd is partial to the cinnamon chip, the honey whole wheat, and the Popeye bread, which features spinach, roasted red peppers, and Parmesan cheese. But the bakery is constantly switching flavors, so there’s always something new to try.
Then, of course, there are the sandwiches. The menu offers everything from the veggie-laden California Cobb to a classic grilled cheese, and there’s even a peanut butter and jelly. But Kidd’s personal favorite is made of sterner stuff.
“I love our Reuben,” Kidd says. “It's a nice tender corned beef, thick cut, not that thin sliced stuff, and there's a lot of it. It's a big sandwich.”
With 21 sandwiches, plenty of baked treats, and a bewildering array of coffee drinks, it’s no wonder the Great Harvest Bread Company has become a neighborhood gathering place. But even as the community has supported Kidd, he’s supported the community. He’s donated the product to local groups and also used his business for fundraising events. In a fun, blast-from-the-past twist, he’s even reconnected with two former teammates. He played hockey at North Dakota with UMD’s head coach Scott Sandelin, and he played at Milwaukee with assistant head coach Jason Herter. Now, they buy big bags of sandwiches to feed their team on road trips. As they would say in The Lion King, the circle of life continues. Maybe someday, one of those players will open up a Great Harvest Bread Company location of his own.
“It's kind of fun,” Kidd says. “That's how we do our advertising — get it in the mouths of people so they can make a judgment for themselves.”
What to Know/When You Go
Great Harvest Bread Company
3 South 13th Avenue East, Duluth