Thursday, July 25, 2024

Great Harvest in Wilmington under new ownership after nearly 25 years

Great Harvest Bread Co. on Oleander Drive is under new ownership after 25 years, with Jodie Hawthorne taking over and sticking to most of the previous owner’s recipes and traditions. (Port City Daily / photo JOHANNA FEREBEE)

After nearly 25 years, Great Harvest Bread Co. on Oleander Drive is under new ownership.

Jodie Hawthorne has taken over the reins from John Palmer, who operated the store and had a loyal following.

“He was ready to hang up his hat,” Hawthorne said, in reference to Palmer’s management of the store for nearly a quarter century.

Hawthorne and her husband frequented a Great Harvest in Charlotte and always thought about opening up a bakery of their own. After moving to Wilmington in May, they found Palmer’s operation on Oleander a perfect fit.

Hawthorne started coming in over the summer to learn the local ropes, and ultimately took over for good on Sept. 1.

So far, the regulars have only noticed a few “fairly minor” changes.

“We painted, moved some things around,” Hawthorne said.

Loyalists can count on the local favorites Dakota bread and the honey whole wheat classic to remain in the daily rotation.

“We’re trying some new stuff,” she said. “For the most part, it’s the tried and true stuff.”

Tom Hale, a baker for Great Harvest Bread Co., prepares to pull freshbaked bread out of the oven to cool. (Port City Daily / photo JOHANNA FEREBEE)

Everything bread has made its debut, with everything bagel seasoning as a topping. Hawthorne has been experimenting with gluten-free bread, which turns over faster than they tend to produce them.

“We tell everyone you have to call ahead and set aside your order because we will sell out of it,” she said.

One noticeable change Hawthorne has begun implementing is her personal philosophy of not selling bread that is more than 24-hours old. Previously, Palmer ran a special on Tuesdays with day-old bread on sale for half-off.

“I don’t sell bread more than 24-hours old,” she said. “Anytime someone comes in, the bread has been baked within 24-hours and milled within two days.”

As for the bread that passes the 24-hour benchmark, Hawthorne has arrangements with Good Shepherd and Second Harvest Food Bank to make donations on a consistent basis.

Great Harvest Bread Co. is a freedom franchise with one rule: mill wheat berries in-house. Hawthorne has access to recipes and shared ideas from other store owners and the Palmer’s established staff.

“These guys make it easy,” she said. “They were already pros when I came in.”

Everything bread, with everything bagel seasoning as a topping, is new to the Great Harvest Bread Co. menu. (Port City Daily / photo JOHANNA FEREBEE)

The team will continue a local favorite, dog biscuits, and plans to carry on a full holiday menu with specialty, seasonal pies.

“Otherwise all of the deals and specials he was doing we are continuing,” she said.

Starting the first of the year, locals can look forward to Hawthorne’s plans to bring out a full sandwich menu.

Great Harvest Bread Co. updates its daily specials on its Facebook page. It is open Tues. – Sun. from 6:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. and is located at 5327 Oleander Drive, Wilmington.

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