MANITOWOC, WIS. — Keith Roberts gave up his banker's suit for a baker's hat, and with Paul Stitt's help, it's fitting quite well.
Using Mr. Stitt's 20-year collection of bread recipes, Mr. Roberts launched his store-front Homeland Bakery five months ago in Fort Collins, Colo. Already he's up to sales of 200-to-300 loaves per day (average price, $2.50 per loaf), and is breaking even.
Homeland Bakery epitomizes what Stitt hopes will spread across the United States - small independent bakers using his formulas to improve the quality of bread eaten by Americans.
``I'm convinced this is the way to go,'' says Roberts, a former bank loan officer who had no experience in baking before meeting Stitt. ``Every day we see more people coming back.... First, they come back because the bread tastes good. Second, they feel good about what they are eating.''
Could anyone get into the bread business? Stitt says it probably takes at least $30,000 to $50,000 for equipment and other expenses to begin. But each bakery must adapt to the local market.
For example, Roberts started by mimicking Stitt's large bakery, with work getting underway at 2 a.m. to produce a full range of bread before the doors opened.
When customers entered, they would often ask, to Roberts' dismay: ``Is this bread fresh today?'' So Roberts changed his schedule, and now bakes during store hours so customers can see and smell the bread baking in a big rotary oven behind the counter.
Roberts says natural breads appeal to everyone, rich and poor alike. And recently he's come up with two bread creations of his own - orange-cinnamon swirl and blueberry maple-nut.