Dublin's new Great Harvest yields bounty of baked goods
By Lou Fancher
"I climbed back in there," Talbert says, pointing through a 15-inch-wide opening to dark, distant corners within the machine. "I had to turn a piece over so I had a friend crawl in with me to help. My husband used a two-by-four to bend these levelers back into position."
Montana-based Great Harvest has been in operation since 1976. The company specializes in fresh bread sold within two days. It's signature loaf, Honey Whole Wheat, is made using only freshly milled whole wheat flour. The chain's Dublin bakery that opened Oct. 9 for breakfast and lunch just steps from the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station is a "freedom franchise," giving Talbert access to time-tested recipes and processes but also freedom to tailor the business to suit the local community.
Calling a 6-days-a-week job that requires starting at 3:30 a.m. and often not returning to her Pleasanton home until 8:30 at night a "dream job," Talbert says supportive family and friends are essential. Her husband, Brian Talbert, works full-time in finance for Intuitive Surgical in Sunnyvale but found time to help with the business plan -- and serves as "Mr. Handyman" when inevitable surprises like the oven incident occur. Their two sons, Davis, 18, and Hayden, 15, help at the front counter. Among the 18 employees, three close friends work alongside Talbert.
Elizabeth Roskopf, of Dublin, met Talbert during nightly walks the women took shortly after Talbert moved from Folsom to the Tri-Valley in 2008. During one such walk Roskopf raved about "the heavenly bread" she'd tasted while vacationing in Utah. For Talbert, learning the bread had come from a Great Harvest -- the same company whose cinnamon chip scones and pumpkin chocolate chip bread her family had adored in Folsom -- was a light bulb moment.
"I realized it was a franchise. That happened in August 2014, and by October, I was in Dillon, Montana, being interviewed to open my own bakery."
Although she's first to admit that she's never run a bakery before and says the three-week training and boot camp were intense and full of science -- "If you mess up the water temperature by one degree you can mess up all of your bread" -- Talbert has had decades of preparation.
Growing up in Warren, Ohio, her Italian mother taught her to make homemade ravioli. "There's a huge assembly line process," she says. "The dough prep, then my dad's station, where it's rolled through the pasta maker, then the cut out, filler, flip and seal stations."
During the winter holiday season, Talbert and her California family make the ravioli. She also continues a long-standing tradition of baking to give. "When I worked in corporate housing, I started in an office with seven people and baked for birthdays. Eventually, we had 35 employees, and I had to downsize to once-a-month lunches. Now, I make 10 different kinds of cookies in quadruple batches and give them to friends and family."
Talbert says she was overweight during childhood but in her 20s she realized she liked baking for other people as much as for herself. Fortunate to be as fond of yoga and group exercise classes as she is of the menu's Berry Cream Cheese Scones or Veggie Three-Seed Hummus sandwich, Talbert says being active and eating nutritious food means, "I can be on my feet all day, lifting heavy bags."
Four weeks into her new career, Talbert says the most popular menu items are Cinnamon Chip and Honey Whole Wheat breads, meat-and-cheese sandwiches, breakfast scones, Peet's Coffee (out of roughly 240 Great Harvests, 20 carry the brand) and dog treats.
"My friend's dog wouldn't eat for two days after the bag ran out," she says.
Roskopf says she's "forever in debt" to Talbert. Why?
"I live just 2 miles away from those salted caramel cookies."