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Our Daily Bread Bakeshop and Bistro

Daily Bread store front
The core group now operating Our Daily Bread Bake Shoppe and Bistro on North Center Street in Barnes includes The Ladies…Norma Drebes-Megenity and her daughters Cindy Hiesterman, Connie Wilkens, Marilyn Link, and “adopted daughters” Kim Helms and Yvonne Murrow as well as Connie’s daughter, Adena, and Cindy’s daughter, Kate. The day-to-day male input comes from Cindy’s husband, Ernie, and Connie’s son, Christopher, and Norma’s husband, Sweeney.

The main ingredient is family.

“Our family has always been hospitable,” says Cindy Hiesterman, business co-founder. “Mom always had a saying that whoever put their hand in the cookie jar was family, and we try to carry that philosophy into our business.”

The original seven that began the business refer to themselves as the “five loaves” and “two fish” based on what Jesus used to miraculously feed 5000 at the Sermon on the Mount. The “five loaves” include a mother, Norma Drebes-Megenity, and her four daughters and “two fish” include a husband and son. Nearly all of the original founders are still involved in the business in Barnes, a Washington County community of approximately 150 located north of Manhattan.

The business, which now offers a retail bakery, online store, daily lunch, and monthly dinner events, started as a retail bakery-only operation in Norma Hiesterman’s two-car garage in December 2002.

Decorated cookies
Decorated holiday cookies are just one of the many products Our Daily Bread offers at their bakery or online through The Gourmet Food Mall.

“Our youngest sister actually wanted to have a bakery in her home,” says Connie Wilkens, co-founder. “Cindy and I went with her to a sale to get some equipment and when we got home mom just said to unload everything in her garage temporarily. That’s where the bakery actually began.”

With hard work and the addition of Internet sales, the business grew quickly and it became necessary to move into its current location on North Center Street. They now draw lunch crowds from many surrounding areas.

“The majority of the traffic in our shop comes from Manhattan, Topeka, Junction City and the surrounding areas who are looking for a different experience,” says Wilkens.

The business’ rapid growth has not been without challenges.

“Changes that happen so fast like we’ve experienced since opening our business are stressful and challenging, but have to happen in order for things to thrive,” Hiesterman says. “To help ease that stress, we have the belief that we all need to be in agreement for us to decide anything.”

Hiesterman firmly believes that it is family that makes the business work.

“We have our two fish and they have their own ideas at times, but it really has become a whole family thing,” Hiesterman says, laughing. “The reward is seeing the family every day.”

Because they knew their somewhat remote location in Barnes would make it difficult to draw large crowds every day, Hiesterman says they knew they would have to be creative.

“When we first started we knew there would never be enough local customers to support a bake shop,” Hiesterman says. “We knew we’d need internet sales to go beyond our borders.”

They first had to learn how products would best ship for internet sales. The women worked with a company who helped create their web site and work through the issues of pricing, online shopping, and shipping. They quickly learned the importance of Internet search engines in attracting new customers.

“We did several searches of homemade baked items and The Gourmet Food Mall came up the most in those searches,” Hiesterman says. “So we contacted them and they had to evaluate the product and packaging before they accepted us. Now they even use us as an example for how to ship products, but there is no way we would have been ready for that outlet if we hadn’t already done some of the initial research on our own.”

Another marketing success has been the addition of monthly dinner events, which began in February 2004. The women say what began as a compromise to requests for being open during the evening hours, has turned into an anticipated event each month. The reservation only events have consistently been booked solid. A different theme is chosen each month and the menu and decorations accommodate the season and event.
“The dinner events are always fun, but we always say the real party is in the kitchen,” Hiesterman says. “We put everyone to work.”

And everyone means every available family member, including husbands, sons, daughters, nephews, and nieces.

Wilkens says they also employ around 10 teens part-time to help with the dinner events. The teens are involved with The Refuge, which is a Christian based youth center in Barnes with which the family is heavily involved.

“A lot of times we’re giving these youth their first job ... they’ll be able to use us as a reference.” Hiesterman says. Wilkens says another big perk are the leftovers the teens often get at the center.

Above anything, the founders of the business believe their community has something unique to offer people who want to see the roots of rural American and hope their experience helps other small, rural communities see opportunity again.

“It’s rewarding that we may be serving as an inspiration to others around us,” says Hiesterman. “We hope we’ve been somewhat responsible for helping small towns to dream again.”

For more information on Our Daily Bread, visit www.our-dailybread.com or www.barnesks.net

 

 

 

 

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Last Updated July 17, 2006
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