Great Harvest Bread Co. where they make it, not bake it

NASHUA – If you can’t find the new bakery in town, just inhale.

Aroma is one of the perks Great Harvest Bread promotes at its new Amherst Street store.

With natural ingredients, a grinding mill, and an oven the size of a tank, the bakery hopes to expand the bread baskets of area residents by providing fresh flavor-filled goods.

Not far removed from its April 15 opening, Great Harvest Bread already seems to have made an impression, drawing large crowds, co-owner Jeremy St. Hilaire said.

The difference between Great Harvest Bread and most other bakeries is that “we just don’t bake it here; we make it here,” St. Hilaire said. “Everything is made by scratch.”

Those fresh products include the “Nine Grain,” the “High Five Fiber” and a honey whole wheat loaf, all made daily. There are also seven other breads made on certain days, like apple crunch and cracked pepper Parmesan.

Breads are made with sweetened molasses and honey, and not a drop of high-fructose corn syrup, St. Hilaire said.

The store opens at 6:30 a.m. weekdays and at 7 a.m. on Saturdays, but don’t expect a fresh loaf that early.

St. Hilaire said that unlike a store where bread is made days earlier and sits on a shelf, it takes a few hours for Great Harvest Bread to prepare loaves each day. Breads start coming out of the oven around 9 a.m. It’s the price for having fresh, hot bread, he said.

St. Hilaire and several of his 16 employees turn on the lights around 4 a.m. each day to start a careful process of breadmaking.

They grind wheat berries – grown on a farm in Dillon, Montana – into flour through a large mill. Employees then gather around a 12-foot by 4-foot, 800-pound table to knead the flour by hand. The shaped flour is then placed into a large oven.

Called “Hot Stuff Henry,” the stove stands 10 feet tall, is 15 feet wide and 9 feet deep. It has eight rotating shelves that can bake as many as 192 loaves. “It definitely is a monster,” St. Hilaire said.

The stove was assembled on site, with every piece just small enough to carry through the front door. It is one of the many home-spun elements of the bakery.

St. Hilaire said he wants customers to appreciate a family flavor as they purchase bread: from the loaves to the open atmosphere of the kitchen, where anyone can tour and see how the bakery makes its goods.

“If anyone wants to walk back here, we want to show them,” St. Hilaire said of the large kitchen.

Also enticing customers are free slices of bread. “It’s not to push them,” St. Hilaire said. He joked that a family of 12 could come in for slices and not have to buy anything. “We want to showcase what we did each day,” he said.

The bakery also sells food products made at other local businesses, including Buckwheat’s Gluten Free breads and muffins, and Amelia Mae’s jams.

Great Harvest Bread is part of a national chain of more than 200 bakeries. It is the first franchise to open in New Hampshire; the nearest other locations are in Lexington and Newton, Mass.

St. Hilaire said other than being required to order the wheat berries from the Montana farm, his franchise can exercise as much independence as it wants.

The idea to open a franchise came when co-owner Sterling Eanes, St. Hilaire’s father-in-law, saw a whole wheat bakery similar to a Great Harvest Bread while on a business trip to Virginia. Eanes owns Spaceflight Systems, a Bedford technology company. Eanes’ wife, Laura; St. Hilaire’s wife, Ginger, and the St. Hilaires’ 4-year-old son, Logan, also work at the bakery.

Great Harvest Bread leases space in the building owned by Blushing Rose florist on 4 Sunapee St. The bakery comprises more than 80 percent of the building.

Sales exceeded expectations almost immediately, and on two separate days caught employees off guard when they ran out of bread, St. Hilaire said. One day, with more than three hours remaining before closing and no bread, they gave out coupons for free loaves, he said.

“It will take about a year to adjust to the demand,” St. Hilaire said. “We’ll keep making bread, and just figure it out.”

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-5832 or