Grateful Bread Company owners Jeff Cleary and Kathy Mullen ceased operations at their Golden bakery for three weeks last June because of a labor shortage. After what Cleary calls “a perfect storm” of attrition, health issues and a tight labor market, the husband-and-wife-owned company was down to just four bakers, from a peak of about twenty. Closing up shop was a difficult decision, since it meant endangering long-term relationships with wholesale customers (those restaurants where we get to enjoy Grateful Bread products), but it was the only way Cleary could step away from the bakery floor — where he was pulling twelve- to fourteen-hour shifts — long enough to hire and train new employees.
The closure didn’t last long, but the impact was significant, and only recently have Cleary and Mullen felt like business is back on track. In the meantime, they lost both money and sleep as they dealt with increased scrutiny from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which oversees wholesale bakeries, and rumors about the status of the bakery. “Everyone thought we were out of business,” Cleary explains.
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