#NiceWork! Great Harvest Bread in Anchorage, Alaska does phenomenal business. For the past several years, it’s held the top spot in sales for restaurants in Anchorage. But their success can’t simply be explained by their infamously fresh and organic bread. Anchorage owners Barb Hood and Dirk Sisso believe that 90% of sales are due to the restaurant’s connection with the local community. Anchorage residents know that a purchase at Great Harvest Bread is a purchase that supports Anchorage.
Great Harvest Bread, a franchise, with over 100 locations throughout the United States is unique. The company doesn’t solely focus on profits. In fact, the company’s tops priorities, aside from making delicious bread, are freedom and people. The parent company encourages each individual branch to do what’s best for their location and connect to their customers in a unique and personalized way. That’s why to many Anchorage residents, Great Harvest feels like home.
Ever since the Barb and Dirk opened shop in 1994, they’ve been a community favorite. They’re probably most well known for their generosity of spirit. As Bonnie Harry, an employee of Great Harvest, explained, “It’s not for show. They do it because generosity to others is part of who they are. The fact that it benefits the business is a bonus.”
Barb and Dirk’s generosity radiates through Great Harvest. They’re frequent donors, and they let the community choose where a large portion of their donations go by encouraging Anchorage residents to submit requests to support local events. Over the years, they’ve supported hundreds of events including annual fundraisers for Breast Cancer and Leukemia research. The restaurant is also an official partner with three schools: West High School, Romig Middle School and North Star Elementary, where they support school events with bread and cookies.
Great Harvest may be most famous for their exceptionally large free samples. When speaking with Envision Kindness, Barb explained an instance in which a young girl came to the counter to get a free sample. She returned again a few minutes later to get another. When Barb saw this, she encouraged the girl to bring a third piece back to her mother. Upon hearing this, the mother burst into tears. “You never know where people are coming from,” Barb explained. “So, you just try to do your best.” Two families have even come up to Barb to tell her how important this free bread has been to them during tough times over the years. Great Harvest also donates unsold items to the local food bank, Beanz Café, each day.
Barb and Dirk even lend out their restaurant’s space. They have made their shop into a community center, helping local artists display their work and hosting open mic nights for poets, musicians, and others. This personalized engagement with customers and customer values has allowed Great Harvest to become a cornerstone in the community.
Outside of Great Harvest, Barb is known for taking pictures of underrepresented populations and telling their stories. Dirk is currently serving as president of the local neighborhood Basher Community Council, working to protect natural places among other things. Dirk carries his interest in environmental protection to the bakery. Great Harvest has received Green Star’s award for environmental responsibility, a shining example of an eco-friendly business.
Inspired by Barb and Dirk’s Great Harvest in Anchorage? No need to fly to Alaska. Check out what your local Great Harvest is up to these days. No Great Harvests near you? Think about what can you can do to be help others in your community.