First Posted: 7/10/2009 8:55:14 PM | Last Updated: 7/10/2009 11:17:27 PM
JACH NEWS SERVICE
LAFAYETTE -- While most people are sound asleep or squeezing in the final moments of rest before the sun dissolves the morning darkness, the first employees has already grinding wheat and making dough at the Great Harvest Bread Co. at 1500 Kossuth St.
Great Harvest's offers a large variety of favorable bread, made fresh daily -- from scones, cookies, sweet and savory breads, dry mixes and cinnamon rolls. Everything is done on site, from milling the whole wheat flour, to baking the bread in the morning and turning them into assorted breads, sandwiches and desserts throughout the day. Jerry Lecy, who owns Great Harvest with his wife Janet, said he hopes that is the reason why people will continue to come.
"You know, they can go to any grocery store and get a loaf of bread," Lecy said. "So why should they want to come at Great Harvest? Well, they will be getting a much better quality of bread and No. 2, they will get a warm hug when they get come in, some times literally."
A Leap of Faith
On this morning, Jerry Lecy is pounding dough, preparing to make an assortments of breads for customers who will stream in when the doors open at 7 a.m. Baking was a hobby for Lecy until a couple of years ago when he and his wife, Janet, got the urge to become business owners.
"We look a leap of faith," Lecy said between pouring fillings for his Cinnamon Explosion and Virginia Savory breads. "We were looking for a retail business that we could do and have a quality product and good customer service. Great Harvest seemed like a perfect fit for us."
The Lecys purchased the company two years ago from the previous owner with a goal of producing not only "phenomenal" bread, but also making Great Harvest a fun and inviting place for customers to visit. Both worked at the main headquarters of Campus Crusade for Christ in Orlando, a campus ministry for young people.
Jerry Lecy worked as the organization's chief financial officer, but said at Great Harvest he's using his strengths -- his people skills -- to make the company grow.
"It plays itself out working with employees and having those tough conversations with them, graciously and forcefully, and in relationships with customers," Lecy said. "I love my customers and they know I love them. I give hugs freely around here. I’ve been spotted giving hugs a few times a day. I guess people skills and keeping things organized are my strengths."
Organizing at Dawn
Organization is important about 6:30 a.m. as Lecy and three other employees dart from the dough table to the large oven, marking each product correctly, knowing the right time when to take out each loaf. Then finally filling the shelves with warm, tasty products with aroma that fills the bakery in time for customers.
"From a business perspective, its been very fulfilling and I think we're doing what we should be doing," Lecy said. "I've never had a regret. Have we had hellacious days? Yes. We guessimated we would. On the other side, financially, we had high goals for 2008 and we surpassed them by 10 percent. We're doing well in the midst of the economy."
How did Lecy, a native of St. Paul, Minn., end up in Lafayette? His wife grew up in Camden in Carroll County. He admitted he always won the living arrangement argument when it was time to move. When the couple decided to take the next step, The Lecys decided Lafayette was a happy medium and it got his wife closer to her roots.
"It took us four months to really make a move and actually pull the plug and say we’re doing it," Lecy said. "We felt that God said it was time for us to go. I love Lafayette. It’s an incredible community. We live in the neighborhood and my children attend school here. It's a perfect fit to raise my family."
On April 21, the Lecy's welcomed their newest edition, Caleb Fitzgerald Lecy, into the world, who now joins five sisters in the Lecy household.
A Fun time at Great Harvest
Between putting out the savory and sweet breads, the Star Spangled Swirl bread and, of course the scones (Great Harvest goes through 700 to 800 a week), Lecy notices there's no music yet.
"Usually we have music playing," Lecy said. "They must be so busy no one's turned it on yet. We like to be have fun around here and I think that's good for everyone."
Lecy said positive, uplifting music is another one of the small things Great Harvest likes to have going for its customers throughout the day. It helps perk up the atmosphere.
"We just started full line of sandwiches in March," Lecy said. "We have Signature and classic sandwiches. Those have really been going well. We've bumped up our catering for those. Now, we're not Jimmy Johns delivery service, but we've been doing very well."
Worth the Drive
Alex Hipsher, of Lafayette, said he was hooked after purchasing his first sandwich from Great Harvest back in March.
"It's the only place where you can get real bread and sandwiches," Hipsher said as he stood in line during the lunch rush. "This is a great place to come and get healthy food. I'm here about two or three times a week."
Zina Breschinsky, of West Lafayette, said she makes the trek to Great Harvest regularly because she feels their breads are unique and a healthy addition to lunch.
"They make phenomenal bread and it's good for you," Breschinsky said. "It's definitely worth the drive."
Keith Molter, of Lafayette, said he visits Great Harvest about once a month and enjoys the wide variety of breads.
"I really like the bread and the scones," Molter said. "I've known about this place for a long time. They have a very good selection and it's always very fresh."
Lecy said he would like to open up a shop in West Lafayette along with another store in an unknown location. He stressed, though, that the quality and the atmosphere would always be the thing that will set Great Harvest Bread Co. apart.
Hi Jerry and Janet,
Congratulations on your Great Harvest venture. Sharon and I are moving to Morgantown, WV, and plan to stop by for a visit around March, 2012.
Blessings on you and your family in the months ahead. Hope you continue rolling in the dough.
Posted By: Susan Heckmann | 9/6/2009 10:57:09 PM
Hi Jerry and Janet,
Do you ship bread etc. ?
Posted By: Janet Limberg | 8/26/2009 10:45:29 PM
Great article, and great to hear that the bread making business in Indiana is going well. Also, congratulations on your newest family member too!