For bread makers Jeff Cleary and Kathy Mullen, bread is not only life; it’s a livelihood.
And it’s a relationship.
Inside their 8,000-square-foot Golden, Colorado facility Grateful Bread owners Cleary, his wife Mullen—and about 30 employees—crank out some of the finest handmade artisan breads and sweets in the area.
But in March of 2020, when the coronavirus first arrived, the couple instantly saw their once-robust wholesale business drop by 85% because of restaurant shutdowns.
They quickly refocused and directed their efforts to retail sales as a means of survival.
“That first Saturday (after the COVID lockdown), we didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Mullen.
Well, the parking lot was full.
“We were mobbed,” she said. “But we were so grateful and really happy people came out to support us.”
Mullen said the trend actually prompted the launch of their new online retail shop, open for orders 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays through Mondays, with in-store pick-up from 2-4:30 p.m. Thursdays.
But fast forward to 2022, and you’ll find Cleary and Mullen still baking bread—and still grateful.
They also admit they’re a bit wiser and more resourceful.
Lingering supply chain shortages and the rising cost of materials like flour have presented interesting challenges.
“The costs are just out of control,” said Cleary. “The cost of flour is up at least 25 or 30%, and that’s just in bulk.”
Cleary’s usual 20,000-pound flour order came in at close to $6,000 before the pandemic.
He says that same order now runs $10,000.
Chocolate from Belgium and quinoa from Bolivia and Peru have also been hard to find.
And then there’s labor.
Cleary said that finding skilled labor was tough before the pandemic, but it was nearly impossible afterward.
“We’re really grateful for the handful of dedicated employees we have,” said Cleary.
So, what’s next for Grateful Bread?
Mullen says it’s cooking classes and wine dinners.
Many may not know that besides being a master baker, Cleary is a trained chef and successful restauranteur.
Grateful Bread was recently honored by the West Metro Chamber of Commerce as the 2022 Medium Business of the Year. The Celebrate JeffCO Award recognizes those businesses in Jefferson County that exemplify the best in leadership and business resiliency.
To learn more about Grateful Bread, visit gratefulbread.com.