October 23, 2013 - They say the first way to a man's heart is his stomach.
In Lake Orion, the first way to a Dragon's heart is a slice of dragon bread.
If you've never bitten into a slice, experience its savory softness at the one year anniversary celebration of the Great Harvest Bread Company, a family owned business on Baldwin and Clarkston October 25 and 26. Slices of dragon, cider mill swirl, apple spice cake, pumpkin chocolate chip breads will be available to try, along with apple cinnamon scones, cinnamon donut muffins, caramel apple sundaes and chili and cornbread to name a few complimentary, just-baked items.
Longtime community members Jim and Louise Westcott opened Great Harvest last October after attending an Orion Township Chamber of Commerce meeting. The Westcotts were feeling around for business ideas when one person exclaimed the lack of a fresh-bread bakery in town.
Like butter to a pan, the idea stuck.
After visiting the Great Harvest Bread Company flour farms in Montana, the Westcotts opened their own Dragon-ized franchise in Lake Orion, which grinds its whole wheat from the Montana farm daily.
While many of the breads are sweet breads, including the Orion Township favorite Extreme Cinnamon Swirl, the Westcotts emphasis the importance of high-fiber breads such as the Honey Whole Wheat, Dakota, and High 5 Fiber.
"We didn't have any idea how much having a hometown, local, fresh bread bakery was missing in this town," Jim Westcott said. "We thought people wouldn't know what it is all about. We are going through a learning process to find out what fresh bread is as opposed to Wonder Bread but we have so many people come to us and say thank you for being here, we needed something like that."
The Westcotts also hadn't realized how much business they would draw from their location. People from Ortonville, Clarkston, Brandon, and Metamora all sift through heading South on Baldwin, or East on Clarkston. From the beginning until present, Great Harvest continues to receive overwhelming support from the local, Dragon community too.
"All the people that knew us and know us visited us in the beginning, and typically in the summer it slows down because people are out of town, the hot weather, people aren't eating as much of this kind of food, so now it's starting to really pick up again, we are looking forward to the holidays," Louise Westcott said.
She is already making plans for Holiday gift baskets, and expanding the Michigan-made products the store offers. Currently the store offers Leelanau Coffee from Glen Arbor, Naturally Nutty Peanut Butter from Traverse City, American Spoon jams from Petoskey, Lesley Elizabeth dipping oils from Lapeer, and Backwoods Mustard from Davison.
Many of their customers are people who the three Westcott kids—who at one point all worked in the store—grew up with, or friends of friends, or people who say, "Oh ya, I know so and so," that chime through the front doors.
"We have a lot of background here," Louise Westcott continued.
The Westcotts have lived in and raised their family in Lake Orion since 1985, and worked in a variety of businesses before deciding to open the bakery. Jim Westcott worked in retail property management, and Louise has worked as both a paralegal for non-profit organizations and in marketing.
One of the reasons the company has been so successful is the effort they have put into marketing.
"You can't just open your doors," Jim Westcott said. "We do Facebook every day, we are constantly getting the word out. We did the Taste of Clarkston, the Lake Orion Flower Fair, we had a Dragon boat for Dragon on the Lake," he said.
Not only is Great Harvest known all over the community for their fresh bread, they are known in the store to offer a slice of any of their featured products.
"Our bakery is rooted in generosity and we thoroughly enjoy sharing our daily creations," he said. "We want to thank everyone for being loyal customers and supporters of our passion for healthy whole grains. This is our chance to show our immense appreciation to the community so please stop by."
Great Harvest is open between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.