The Bread Beckers Story
The Bread Beckers began in 1992 when Sue Becker shared an amazing discovery, first with her husband Brad and their six children, and then with friends. Sue’s background in food science and interest in biochemistry and nutrition often led her to read medical journals in her free time (not everyone’s cup of tea, she’ll admit). One bulletin she read revealed the history of mass-produced food: the decline in American public health can be directly charted to the widespread switch to commercially milled white flour in the 1920s. Real bread, this article said, had little to do with the product on store shelves. What’s more, the authors wrote, many common ailments of the modern era could be traced back to a loss of the essential nutrients and fiber people used to find in bread made with freshly ground whole grains–something almost no one eats today. Sue gave a hard look at the science in the article and decided it rang true.
That week Sue bought a grain mill and started making her family’s bread herself. Almost immediately, and without any other dietary changes, little health complaints that she and her children had learned to live with started clearing up. Fatigue, constipation, sugar cravings, chronic congestion, even warts: all gone in a few weeks. Sue shared her “new discovery” with friends and began baking bread for them. Word spread quickly as others experienced improved health as well. But she and Brad had just had their sixth child, and the demand for bread was outpacing her ability to keep up with the rest of her life. She decided that instead of making bread for the world, perhaps her calling was to teach the world to make bread for themselves. The seed of the Bread Beckers was sown.
Many signs encouraged Brad and Sue to press on in their fledgling venture. Sue dug deep into nutritional and scientific study to discover why something as simple as breads made from freshly milled flour could bring such immediately noticeable and varied health benefits to so many. Then, Bible study revealed verses that encouraged them to share their newfound discovery with the masses, while Brad found out that their family roots ran deep in bread: “Becker” is Middle High German for “baker.” But what really kept them going was an unending stream of people with health complaints, great and small, that needed to hear this message.
In 1993, the Beckers were invited to join a homeschool curriculum show and take their knowledge to a larger audience. Brad and Sue already schooled their kids at home and Sue had some experience teaching cooking to kids and parents in a homeschool home ec. class environment. Show after show, the Bread Beckers hit the road sharing their message, selling equipment, teaching classes and eventually creating cookbooks. Brad and Sue didn’t expect the overwhelming growth of the following–they could barely keep up with the demand and thought to offer new services only as people asked for them. When customers asked where to buy grain (since grocery stores typically don’t carry 50-pound sacks of whole wheat), Brad and Sue set up grain co-op locations to get buyers the best prices without high shipping costs. The completely unique service that is the Bread Beckers today began to take shape around the co-ops.
Brad quit his job as an architectural millwork carpenter in 1996 to work on The Bread Beckers full-time, and just a couple of years later, with a garage (and several interior rooms) full of inventory, The Bread Beckers had simply become too big for their home and their business model.
In January 1998 they incorporated the business with their longtime friend Jim Carpenter. Jim was married to Gayle, Sue’s sorority sister from her days at the University of Georgia. He himself was a Georgia Tech man, a civil engineer by trade, and (true to Yellow Jacket form) his practical mind and love of problem solving were the perfect complements to the Beckers’ passion and drive. Jim became a partner in The Bread Beckers, Inc and manages the business side to this day. They moved the business out of the house to a storefront, but even there, their customers and inventory spilled out into the halls like too much dough rising in a loaf pan. They had outgrown their new space just as soon as they had opened it.
In September 1999, The Bread Beckers, Inc moved to a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Woodstock, GA, which quickly evolved from a shipping depot for supplies headed around the country into a proper storefront serving friends, clients and visitors. Meanwhile, they unexpectedly became the South’s largest grain supplier in an unexpected turn of events. A Y2K-inspired grain shortage left them without a supplier, and their search for another turned up nothing (the Southeast’s bugs and humidity make it particularly inhospitable to grain). They found their own grain elevator, one with strong relationships with independent farmers, and began their own supply network, strengthening the existing co-op locations and adding new ones.
The grain co-ops and extra space have turned The Bread Beckers, Inc into the beating heart of a community. The spacious warehouse now houses a full-service kitchen store and a studio kitchen where they produce cooking classes and educational videos. Even local produce co-op networks use The Bread Beckers, Inc as a hub to connect with health-conscious customers. Their newest venture is to archive recipes and video cooking classes online for all. The Bread Beckers, Inc currently employs 16 passionate people, occupies two buildings, and has become a part of the economic, spiritual and cultural fabric of Cherokee County, GA.