November 3, 2010 in Business

HearthBread closes, citing safety risks

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane-area businesses are shuffling their bread orders to deal with the closing of HearthBread BakeHouse, which closed its doors within weeks of new owners taking over the business.

The company, owned and operated by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe from 2006 until recently, was sold to a Spokane company, Daskk Premium Goods, according to Hilo Hancock, a tribe spokesman.

Two weeks ago, with no advance warning, the Damskers closed HearthBread and have not announced plans to reopen.

The closing left some businesses scrambling. Wayne Burnham, general manager of Tomato Street Restaurant on North Division Street in Spokane, was getting 6,500 loaves of French rolls per week from HearthBread. He’s had to switch to Spokane Valley-based Franz Family Bakers to fill orders.

“Franz has really stepped up and taken care of us,” Burnham said.

The two local operators of Daskk, Keith and Alexandra Damsker, sent a letter to former customers and said they had to close the bakery after finding health-related risks inside the bakery, at 220 E. Jackson Ave.

Nicole Burgi, co-owner of Spokane’s Alpine Bakery, said the Damskers’ letter referred to black mold throughout the proof boxes used to bake large numbers of loaves. Proof boxes are warm, sealed rooms in which dough is left to rise.

Attempts to contact the owners of HearthBread BakeHouse were unsuccessful. Hancock couldn’t be reached for additional comment regarding the condition of the equipment.

Alpine has picked up a number of the accounts the Damskers no longer serve, said Burgi. Those include the Davenport Hotel and Domini’s downtown sandwich shop.

She and her husband, Carl, are eager to hire three or more workers to manage increased production. She estimated the new orders are increasing production by about 25 percent.

“We’re looking for bakers, production workers, even a driver,” Burgi said.

That extra production amounts to roughly 200 or 300 more loaves per day, Burgi said.

Bob Albers, CEO of Portland-based Franz Family Bakers, said HearthBread’s production was relatively small compared with other bakeries.

Spokane’s Franz bakery produces roughly half a million loaves each week, he said. That amounts to about 20 percent of the Spokane area’s bread market, Albers estimated.

The largest part of the bread market in Spokane belongs to commercial bakeries used by the large supermarkets. Those include bakeries run by Fred Meyer, Safeway and others. “I’d guess those bakeries account for about half of all the market there,” Albers said.


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