It all began back in the 1970s. Our founders, Pete and Laura Wakeman, were just a couple of college kids who baked amazing scratch-made whole grain bread to help pay their tuition at Cornell University. Newly married in 1975, the adventurous couple hiked the entire north-south length of Montana. They never left and they established the first Great Harvest Bakery in Great Falls.
Word spread fast about their uniquely flavorful bread made with pure-and-simple ingredients and wheat purchased from local farmers. It didn’t take long before neighbors asked about starting up their own Great Harvest. In 1978, the freedom franchise was born and the next bakery opened in Kalispell, Montana.
Slowly and organically, Great Harvest began to grow into the nation’s first family of independently owned and operated whole grain bread bakeries. Authenticity, a spirit of camaraderie and individuality remain the foundation of the organization. Today there are more than 200 Great Harvest bakeries located across the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.
In 2001, the Wakemans sold the company to Chairman Nido Qubein, President/CEO Mike Ferretti and a group of partners. Today, Mike and Nido own 100% of the company and Mike is active in the day to day operations. Mike was has always been passionate about preserving the Great Harvest philosophy and strengthening it. With Ferretti at the helm, the first Franchise Agreement Board was formed. This allowed an elected board of bakery owners to approve all future changes to the franchise agreement. Big strides have been made in other areas, too. Now many bakeries across the country offer customers awesome sandwiches and panini, and full-service coffee and espresso bars. The most exciting development is Great Harvest’s new offering of European-style hard-crusted breads, including whole grain varieties, at an increasing number of bakeries.