It’s 7:30 on a sleepy morning in Larchmont, New York. But the Great Harvest bakery is anything but sleepy. A girl behind the counter smiles widely and offers customers steaming slices of bread. A baker sings along to the energetic strains of “Just a Girl,” by No Doubt.
Meanwhile, in the back of the store, three people are gathered around a stainless-steel table. The store’s owners, Susan and Zealie Van Raalte, are scoring the tops of bread loaves that are ready to bake. Linda Hanick, 53, who is visiting Larchmont from her Great Harvest store in Overland Park, Kansas, watches over their shoulders.
“Your buns are anemic,” she says.
It’s not a nice thing to say this early — especially to people who have been working by a hot oven for more than two hours. But the Van Raaltes are all ears: They’re Great Harvest newbies, and Hanick is a veteran. She’s spending the day here as part of their six-month checkup.
“I’m getting a feel for their dough and for how they do things,” Hanick says. “They make things one way, and I tell them about things that other owners are doing. They can figure out what works best.”
The Van Raaltes aren’t afraid to innovate. “We’re always learning,” says Zealie Van Raalte. “We’re the first Great Harvest in New York. But we’re not really alone. There are just so many resources available — and such a willingness to share.”