> Bridge Bread Bakery
Hope In The Baking
Hope In The Baking
Bridge Bread seeks to empower people who have experienced homelessness to rebuild their lives with meaningful employment.
Bridge Bread is a social enterprise designed to provide job opportunities for people experiencing homelessness or those who are housing insecure. The goal of the program is to help the disadvantaged engage in a financially rewarding effort that enhances self-worth, promotes dignity, and enables them to help themselves. Our highly successful bakery demonstrates that people who have experienced homelessness are eager to work hard and can be valuable employees who earn decent wages. We are a hand up, not a handout, to our bakers. This promotes their self-worth and accounts for our success rate.
Fred Domke and Sharon Domke, Founders
There are few if any opportunities for people experiencing homelessness to be productively employed. Bridge Bread’s program accepts them as they are and allows them to participate with minimal training and minimal commitment. After training and establishing a positive work record, our workers become more employable and some will move on to more traditional jobs. This makes room for new entrants into our venture. Bridge Bread is like a doorway: a doorway to a more substantial future.
Bridge Bread engages with the community on issues of homelessness and how social enterprises can help people become valuable, contributing members of society. They are not throwaway people!
Bridge Bread employs six bakers. Each of their stories and pathways to homelessness is unique. Through the support and employment of Bridge Bread, they are now self-sufficient, skilled bakers with a stable income, housing, and most importantly, hope. About two thirds of our bakers remain employed and housed.
We chose to make bread because it is a high-value-add product. The ingredients for basic bread are inexpensive, but the resulting product can be highly sought after. There is something especially encouraging about turning flour, butter, sugar, and yeast into delicious handmade baked goods.
About two thirds of the income from sales goes to the bakers in wages, taxes, and benefits. About one quarter covers the cost of ingredients.
Our bakers are the only paid employees of Bridge Bread. Everyone else, from the president to the bake-shop workers, are volunteers. Most of our equipment was purchased with donated funds or received as gifts in kind. The balance of expenses for facilities, utilities, insurance, and other costs are covered by donations. As we expand, we expect to be able to cover those costs from sales income and use donations primarily to grow the program.
Bridge Bread has been sold through supporting churches from the very beginning in 2011. In July 2015, we opened our first retail location on Cherokee Street. In October of 2017, we moved our retail location down the street into the historic Vandora Theatre building at 2639 Cherokee Street, St. Louis, MO 63118. A year later, we moved the baking operation into the same facility. We also sell at farmers markets, on our own food truck, and recently started significant commercial sales. Bridge Bread isn’t loafing. We’re on a roll!