Great Harvest on the move

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Mark and Ainley Jewell, owners of two Great Harvest Bread Co. stores, have closed their downtown location and will open a new store near Garden of the Gods Road and Centennial Boulevard.

Mark and Ainley Jewell, owners of two Great Harvest Bread Co. stores, have closed their downtown location and will open a new store near Garden of the Gods Road and Centennial Boulevard.

Mark and Ainley Jewell plan to move both of their Great Harvest Bread Co. locations into new digs by the end of the year.

The Jewell’s have shuttered the doors at their downtown location, ending a 16-year reign for the quaint little bakery on the corner of Tejon and Kiowa streets.

It was long time coming for that move. Mark said his type of business wasn’t a very good fit for the downtown area.

“We’re a destination purchase,” he said. “People come to us for a specific purchase. We’re not dependent on and we don’t get foot traffic. With the parking situation downtown, that’s always been a challenge.”

Despite being mildly profitable, the downtown store simply had too many negatives attached to it for the couple to consider keeping it open.

“Our location down there was small,” Mark said. “The landlord wasn’t interested in investing, and we were turning away business because we didn’t have seating. We decided we would rather invest our money somewhere else.”

The Jewells launched their search for a new location two years ago and began tracking their customers by ZIP code.

Its third largest density of customers came from the area West of Interstate 25, between Woodmen Road and Fillmore Street, and because of demographics, the Jewells knew that many more potential customers live near there. Mark and Ainley provided their criteria to Sean Reilly at Cameron Butcher Commercial Real Estate and he started searching.

They reviewed a variety of locations on the west side and, as it turned out, a developer near Garden of the Gods Road and Centennial Boulevard thought Great Harvest would make good fit.

As a result, Great Harvest will open at 1466 Garden of the Gods Road, next to Trinity Brewing Co., on Oct. 15.

“We share a complimentary customer base with Trinity, people who are looking for something fresh and flavorful,” Mark said. “Yes, that area has lost a bunch of manufacturing jobs and a high-tech call center, but we think we’re in on the leading edge of those jobs coming back. We’re changing our menu a bit to attract that corporate customer. We’re looking at the future and confident that it will come back.”

Also on the horizon, Mark and Ainley will close their Woodmen Valley Shopping Center location on Dec. 1. That store will be replaced by a new one at Voyager and Middle Creek parkways sometime during the first half of November. A third store is planned at an as yet undetermined location during the next 12 to 18 months.

Motivation for moving the Woodmen store stemmed from the massive interchange construction project about to begin at Woodmen and Academy Boulevard.

“There was no way we could survive a two-year construction project,” Mark said. “People’s shopping habits change after two years, and even if we did survive, both visibility and access would be significantly compromised.”

On tap for the Garden of the Gods store? A new, larger oven. Mark and Ainley have purchased a 30-pan oven, which will increase capacity compared to the downtown store by 20 percent, and relieve bottlenecks that occurred during peak periods.

So how can two local entrepreneurs manage to invest so much when so many retailers are struggling to survive?

“We had our biggest year ever last year (revenue was up 20 percent compared to 2007) and we were tracking even bigger this year until the recession hit,” Mark said. “Still, we’re up slightly, but not as big as last year. I speculate that our customers have decided that Great Harvest is a good thing in their lives. Good bread is important. It’s fresh, nutritious and it tastes better. We’re not recession proof, but maybe recession resistant by what we offer.”

The recession also has presented some positives for expansion-minded entrepreneurs.

“Rents have softened significantly in the last nine months,” Mark said. “We’re paying less for newer, better locations. We were willing to take the risk, and now is a good time to do it.”

Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.