Like all members of the Great Harvest franchise system, the owners of the Missoula Great Harvest bakery, Dave Scheel and Linda Tawney, live by the mission statement of Great Harvest Bread, written by the Wakemans. It reads: "Be loose and have fun. Bake phenomenal bread. Run fast to help customers. Create strong, exciting bakeries. And give generously to others."

As Scheel puts it, "If we decide one day that we want to become a pizza store, because that's more fun, then that's what we'll do."

Tom McMakin, former COO of Great Harvest Franchising is hoping to spread the ideas behind them through his book, "Bread and Butter: What a Bunch of Bakers Taught Me about Business and Happiness."

"People laugh when they hear that title, because you don't often hear business and happiness in the same sentence. It's almost an oxymoron," says McMakin, who himself moved to Montana almost a decade ago with his wife, Mary, in search of a better life.

"We're very mindful of the fact that business is not an end in itself," McMakin says "It's a means to create a happier life."

"It's a very different lesson than the dot-com ethos that says work like heck, cash out, and then move to Montana," says McMakin. "Here you have (Missoula store owners) Dave and Linda. They went ahead and moved to Montana first. They're not trying to make a billion dollars. They said, let's design a life that works for us and have the business be part of that design."

Scheel and Tawney may not be trying to make a billion dollars from their Missoula bakery, but profits are not a dirty word at Great Harvest. "We've always been interested in profits," says Scheel. "Profits are what buys the things you need to have a successful business. If you watch successful businesses, they're the ones that have the money to make those changes over time and keep the place looking good."

New owners

Though life may be idyllic in Dillon, Mont., Great Harvest headquarters, it is not static. This past spring, the Wakemans sold the franchise business after 25 years. The new president and chief executive, Mike Ferretti, was chief financial officer for a North Carolina franchise, Li'l Dino Delis. Ferretti met the Wakemans through a friend of a friend, who thought Ferretti, a self-confessed "numbers geek" should buy the business. "I kept telling him. Bread company? Montana? Me? Forget it," remembers Ferretti. Ferretti bought Great Harvest with a group of other investors, also from North Carolina, who were excited about the company's potential.

"It's a sleeping giant," says Ferretti.

"I don't plan to change it, but my groups and my background are a more professional background," says Ferretti, who would like to see the franchise opening two new stores a month once the transition to new ownership is complete.

Through the terms of the loan, the new owners obtained to purchase the business, the headquarters must remain in Montana as long as the loan is out, but Ferretti says he has no plans to move the company from Montana.

"The whole Montana mystique is part of who we are. A lot of Great Harvest clones have tried to duplicate our business model, but never pulled it off," says Ferretti.

Reported by Sarah Prior. Jane Applegate is the author of "201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business," and is CEO of SBTV.com, a multimedia site providing small-business resources. She can be contacted via e-mail at jane@sbtv.com, or by mail at P.O. Box 768, Pelham, NY 10803.

Next

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.