Baking & Snack - November 2020 - 31

OPERATIONS
Main Street Gourmet

Seeking new roads for growth, Main Street Gourmet
reinvented itself as a custom bakery. It's now ready to
expand that nimble model to a broader market.
by Charlotte Atchley

T

There are custom manufacturers, and then
there is Main Street Gourmet. Over its 30plus year history, the Akron, Ohio-based
company has evolved into an innovative
business complete with adaptive operations
to fulfill its promise of customization.
" Everyone talks innovation; we created
a company that is pure innovation, " said
Harvey Nelson, co-founder and chief executive officer. " We're constantly adapting
and changing and trying to figure out the
best way to do things because we have to.
Surviving and constantly growing is easier
for us because we can adapt. We are the
Charles Darwin of bakeries. "
From its company-wide collaborative team to its ever-changing plant floor,
Main Street Gourmet has positioned itself
as a one-stop shop of bakery solutions for
national restaurant chains and in-store
bakeries. The company's operations and
collaborative approach enable it to quickly
deliver custom solutions across a wide variety of applications and challenges.
" We really built our whole company
around being able to solve problems, "
Mr. Nelson said. " And if we can solve one
problem, we can solve others. "
Main Street Gourmet is always evolving to help its customers stand out among
the competition. It's survival of the fittest
in foodservice category these days, and
the Darwinian bakery has gone through
its own evolution to help those customers
reinvent themselves.

From muffins to custom
Main Street Muffins opened its doors in
1987 as a retail muffin shop. Mr. Nelson
and Co-founder Steve Marks renovated a
four-story building in downtown Akron
and knew they wanted a retail shop on the

first floor. After seeing the growing popularity of muffins on the West Coast in the
late '80s, they decided on a muffin shop despite not having bakery experience.
" Turns out muffins were easy, "
Mr. Nelson said.
While construction was underway at
the site, Mr. Nelson experimented in his
apartment kitchen, learning from a local
baker. He would bake a batch of blueberry muffins, solicit feedback from the
construction workers, go back and tinker
in the kitchen, repeat. Once the blueberry
muffins were perfected, he moved on to
the next variety and so on until the company had created a menu of muffins to
open the shop.
The muffins were not only easy, but
they were a hit with the community.
Mr. Nelson and Mr. Marks sold them any
way they could, delivering to local businesses and selling them out of a cart on
the local university campus and downtown. Six months in, owners of a nearby
truck stop purchased the muffin batter
so they could bake Main Street's muffins
fresh, and the wholesale market opened
up before them.
" We put the muffin batter into buckets,
and we thought, 'Oh my gosh, this was so
easy,' " Mr. Nelson recalled. " And then, as
we started going after that business, we realized to grow a retail or a wholesale business, we were going to have to choose, and
we chose to go the wholesale way. "
What followed was a hub-and-spoke
model of growth in major cities across
the Midwest and along the East Coast.
Main Street Muffins was selling its muffins and muffin batter to mostly small,
independent retail shops through
distributors.

Cookies pucks are
deposited and then
frozen raw so customers
can bake them onsite.
Main Street Gourmet

www.bakingbusiness.com / November 2020 Baking & Snack 31


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Baking & Snack - November 2020

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Baking & Snack - November 2020 - 1
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