History of Great Harvest Bread Co.

It all began back in the 1970s. Our founders, Pete and Laura Wakeman, were just a couple of college kids trying to earn some summer spending money. They set up a small roadside stand in their hometown of Durham, Conn., and began baking fresh-ground whole-wheat bread.

After graduating from college, Pete & Laura's travels took them through the heart of Montana's legendary wheat country. Their fate was sealed. In 1976, the couple opened the first Great Harvest Bread Co. in Great Falls, Montana. They sold out of bread—all twelve loaves—on their first day. Business grew and a loyal following of bread fans was born.

Word spread fast. Soon neighbors were wondering how they could go about starting up their own Great Harvest. The next bakery opened in nearby Kalispell in 1978. Then Jacque Sanchez, in Spokane, Washington, opened the third (and is still going strong more than twenty years later!).

The franchise office was founded in Dillon in 1983, and the original Great Falls bakery sold to Pete Rysted (who still owns it today). Slowly and organically, Great Harvest began to grow into the nation's first family of whole grain bread bakeries.

Twenty-five years later, the torch was passed to President & CEO Mike Ferretti and five other partners. Mike's been passionate about preserving the Great Harvest philosophy, and he's championed a new focus on the franchisee. Since 2001, more programs to both build and protect our owners' businesses have hit the scene.

With Ferretti at the helm, the first Franchise Agreement Board was formed. This has allowed an elected board of bakery owners to approve all future changes to the franchise agreement. Big strides have been made in other areas, too. Bakeries across the country are now implementing an all-new signature sandwich and panini program. Others are introducing full service coffee and espresso bars, thanks to a new partnership with a specialty California coffee roaster. And we've developed an innovative hard crust bread program, featuring a unique line of whole grain hard crust breads.

Looking into the future, we'll bet there's one thing history won't ever change: our mission. We'll always be loose and have fun, bake phenomenal bread, run fast to help customers, create strong exciting bakeries, and give generously to others.

History of The Great Harvest Bakery at Centre Park Drive…

“We’re a new, old-fashioned bakery specializing in whole-wheat breads & making the community a better place. Each loaf is handcrafted from scratch using our own stone ground whole wheat flour.”


We liked the bread so much we bought the company. Jim and Karen Adomines