Our Humble Beginning: the Bread Collective
In late summer of 2004 came the rumor that the only bread in town worth eating was about to stop being made. Michael Henderson of Home Spirit Bakery was heading to California to complete his training to become an ordained Episcopalian minister. Simultaneously a group of folks with connections at the Astoria Cooperative were talking about worker collectives.
The combination of these two things proved fertile ground for the creation of the Bread Collective. Pictured above left is the original group from left to right, Joe Garrison, Iris Sullivan, Martin Daire, Sean McMullin, Mary Nally, Sam Daire and Kris Daehler (the two small boys are the children of Iris and Joe).
Arrangements were made to use the kitchen in the old Victorian house that had housed the Home Spirit bakery to continue to make bread to sell at the food coop. With a few lessons from departing baker Michael, and the combined determination of the five new collective members, bread continued to be baked and delivered. The collective committed to get together once a week for a meeting, and to each take a day to bake bread. All five kept their other day jobs, and all revenue made from the bread was put aside towards the future opening of a retail space.
After about 6 months Sean left the collective to pursue his other interests.
Plans began in earnest to locate a suitable location for the bakery, as the Home Spirit house was up for sale and the clock was ticking. We located a place - the Fort George Building was being vacated by the Ocean Crest car dealership. It had lacked attention during the prior decade. In May of 2005, while we were negotiating the lease, the city condemned the building due to its many broken windows, which were seen as a public danger.
With the incredible support of our new landlord, Robert Stricklin, the massive renovation of the Fort George building began. Many, many meetingsensued, all while continuing to improve our baking skills. We sold out every week at the Sunday Market that summer - we had reached the capacity of our old ovenin the Home Spirit Kitchen.
That fall, Donalda Speight joined the collective, bringing her knowledge of pastry. In December of 2005 Mary left the collective. The remaining members chose to stop baking in order to focus onthe work necessary to open the retail space - researching and purchasing large and small equipment, including a deck oven, meeting with contractors, painting, menu planning . . .
In May of 2006, with only 48 hours before the first Sunday Market, we finally had electricity restored to the space, and we could plug in our new bread oven to see if it would work. The buzz around town was growing. Our community rallied to support our efforts. We hired our first paid workers, Dennis Roley and Will Cherau. We delivered bread to the market and resumed deliveries to the coop. Donalda left to attend to an ailing family member.
With the huge efforts of a legion of friends, family and new workers, we finally opened on the last weekend of September 2006.
The first year open was very intense. The realities of a start-up business with a large group of new employees resulted in the kin work of the collective being neglected. Kris left the owner collective at the end of December 2007. The slow process of evening out and stabilizing the worker community continued through 2009.
NEW BEGINNINGS: SCORCHER ARTISAN COOPERATIVE
During 2008 to 2011, the Scorcher’s reputation as a business with integrity - and delicious, organic food - grew. Our dedicated customer base grew beyond all our wonderful locals to include many folks who travel through Astoria periodically, and make a point of stopping at the bakery frequently.
Beginning in 2009, Joe and Iris shifted more attention towards cultivating new worker-owners to join - though the process was sometimes pushed aside in order to focus on staying in business - meeting more frequently with a group of workers who were interested in developing the business as a cooperative. Part of the effort towards broader ownership included the formation of a Stewardship Council, aimed at both helping to manage the business and transform the bakery into a coop with broader ownership.
In January 2011, all the Scorcher workers voted to pursue broader ownership at the annual membership meeting. Manifesting a functioning collective of worker-owners finally came to fruition in Fall of 2011. In October of 2011, a band of intrepid Scorcher workers retreated to Brietenbush for two days with Diane Gasaway from the Northwest Cooperative Development Center to lay out the plan.
In January 2012, Hipfish - our local independent monthly paper - featured our cooperative transition as their cover story.
June 30, 2012, The Bread Collective sold Blue Scorcher to the Scorcher Artisan Cooperative. July 1, 2012, Scorcher Artisan Cooperative began as a ten member worker-owned cooperative officially taking over management of Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe.
As of 2016, we have grown to an organization of over 30 workers - 14 of which are worker-owners - and growing!