Beloved bakery up for sale as owners say it’s time to retire – Hartford Courant

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A beloved Connecticut bakery is up for sale after the franchise’s owners said it’s time to hang up their aprons.

Great Harvest Bread Company on Talcottville Road in Vernon is listed for sale, but the franchise’s owners plan to keep the business open until a sale is finalized, which could take several months. The bakery has been a staple in the community since 2015.

Franchise owners and husband-wife duo Jean and Dale Roberts said after decades of pouring their lives into their business, they are looking forward to the next chapter in retirement.

“It’s time,” Jean Roberts said. “We’ve been doing this now for 21 years and we spent between the two of us 25 and 30 years at MassMutual before doing the bakery. So we feel it’s time now to retire and focus on other things.”

The couple initially set up shop at a Great Harvest Bread Co. franchise on Main Street in Manchester back in 2003. The pair quit their corporate jobs and traded their offices for a new adventure. After 10 successful years in Manchester, tragedy struck when an electrical fire burned down the bakery in 2013. For a while, Jean and Dale Roberts said they weren’t sure what to do next.

“It took us some time before we decided we really wanted to do this again,” Jean Roberts said. “Soul searching after a devastation is tough. When we decided we wanted to do a rebuild, we started looking as close as we could to the Main Street area in Manchester. We picked out quite a few locations but they didn’t meet our needs. Either they were too big or too small. We just kept looking. The real estate agent we were working with said he had another location just outside the Manchester line in Vernon. And so we came here and it was a great decision.”

In April of 2014 the Roberts found the space at 425 Talcottville Road in Vernon. They signed the lease in June of 2014. Construction took eight months and the Roberts said they quickly found a sense of community and a dedicated customer base when they opened in the summer of 2015.

“Opening day was overwhelming; the outpouring of support from the community was incredible,” Jean Roberts said. “The Manchester community and surrounding areas were really happy we were able to reopen.”

The pair said that they are making sure whoever takes over will be the right fit. Any new owners will receive training through the Great Harvest Bread Co. home office. The national franchise chain has more than 200 stores nationwide.

“It’s a process we have to work between ourselves and the home office. We need to make sure we have a good fit,” Jean Roberts said. “We’re a whole grain, made-from-scratch bakery. We are looking for someone who really focuses on putting out a quality product. We also want to find someone who is looking to be part of the community. Because Great Harvest is all about the community.”

Back before they became franchise owners, Jean and Dale said they would often frequent the former Manchester bakery they would later come to purchase. Being around baking dough became a much anticipated destination. Dale said his love for baking started when he was just a young child growing up in Buffalo.

“My great aunt when I was a young boy baked bread and it was wonderful to go over her house on a Saturday morning with my Mom and sister. You could see the bread rising on the table and some was baking in the oven,” Dale Roberts said. “It was just so fresh and I loved that butter bread. I would always ask ‘do we get to take some home Mom?’ It was a project of love.”

The pair said that customers often come in the shop just for the smell of baked goods fresh out of the oven.

“People say the smell is just overwhelming, it’s comforting for many. If we sold the smell, we would be billionaires,” Jean Roberts said. “Bread has been around for thousands of years, it’s not going anywhere. It’s pure comfort food.”

The price tag for a new franchise owner is $200,000, according to the company. Jean and Dale said any new owner will benefit from an already thriving customer base that comes from near and far to bring home the award-winning bread.

“We have people that travel up from the shore area, we have people come from Massachusetts. We even have a woman from California who comes here. She brings her suitcase and brings her bread back. I’m sorry to say that there is a Great Harvest near her but she likes our bread. That’s fine with me,” Dale Roberts said with a chuckle.

The pair said they plan on staying in the local community in their retirement.

“We have kids and grandchildren here, we plan on staying local,” Dale Roberts said. “If we can, we will travel a bit, and see a little more of the world we couldn’t for the last 21 years. It’s something to look forward to. I know I will feel rather sad when the time comes to turn this over to someone else. But I will also feel a sense of accomplishment if we can find the right person to take this over and make this grow even more. There’s a lot of potential here.”

Stephen Underwood can be reached at [email protected]

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