Dave's Killer Bread: Portland, Oregon knows it and loves it.
The hearty, organic bread was first launched at a Portland farmers market in 2005. The public response was swift and overwhelmingly positive. Since then the company has grown from 30 employees to 250 employees, with sales increasing from $3 million to $50 million.
Now, the bread, which comes in more than a dozen varieties, including the Good Seed, Blues Bread and Rockin' Rye, is available in Los Angeles at most Vons and Pavilions locations.
The addictive bread (I know, I've gone through three loaves by myself since being introduced to it) stands out thanks to an exceptionally rich and chewy texture achieved through the use of whole, cracked and rolled grains, as well as extra fiber and lots of seeds.
"It's the Cadillac of breads," says its creator, Dave Dahl, sitting at Groundwork coffee during a recent trip to L.A. with his team. "I hope someone doesn't make the Corvette of breads."
Dahl is a big man, with long hair and large biceps. Bread is the family business, but Dahl came to it the hard way, having served a total of 15 years in prison for burglary, armed robbery and drug dealing.
Dahl's father, James, was a pioneer in the healthy bread business, having opened NatureBake bakery in 1969 (before that he ran a bakery called Midway). Dave's brother, Glenn, and Glenn's son Shobi were running the business when Dave got out of prison for the last time in 2004. Dave had finally decided that he wanted to change his life. He asked for help, got on medication and vowed to contribute to the world in a positive way.
For him this meant baking. He had no real life to speak of at the time so he threw himself into dough, experimenting with recipes and eventually perfecting them into what would become the first four varieties of Dave's Killer Bread.
"I became addicted to work," says Dave, who has a gentle voice and warm eyes. "Entrepreneurship is about getting passionate and doing whatever you need to do to work it out and to do it honestly."
He points to a loaf of bread on the table in front of him.
"This is Good Seed, it's my personal favorite," he says. "It's significant because of my life change. People ask me how long it took me to perfect the bread and I say I was 43 years old at the time, so it took me 43 years."
The slogan for Dave's Killer Bread is, "Just say no to bread on drugs," which people often think has to do with Dave's checkered past. But Dave says it really has to do with the fact that the bread is organic.
Despite his success, Dave hasn't forgotten the turmoil he went through to achieve it. That's why a third of his employees are ex-felons, a move that earned the company an Oregon Ethics in Business Award in 2011.
"I want to see other people turn their lives around," says Dave. "It's exponential, it improves the whole world. I hope I can help inspire people to do what I've done. Plus it's been a good move. These people are appreciative and they become great workers."