At 1,000 loaves a day, this bakery helps supply SLO County with its bread

A batch of fresh bread in a bakery oven.
A batch of fresh bread in a bakery oven.

When Phil Korte purchased Edna’s Bakery 11 years ago in a somewhat-serendipitous encounter, he didn’t know what to expect.

“I really wasn’t in the pursuit of a bakery,” he said. “I’m not a baker by trade. I just wanted to have a small business that I had the opportunity to grow, and take advantage of some of the skills that I have.”

An aspiring business owner with a background in the telecom and computer industries, Korte had been trying to buy a property management company when he got a tip about the wholesale bakery for sale.

Founded by the original owner in 1989, Edna’s Bakery has only grown under Korte’s stewardship.

Since he became the owner, the entire operation has expanded from delivering to about 140 customers to 700, he said. In 2017, Korte, 59, anticipates the company will gross $6 million to $7 million in sales. Most of that money will be funneled back into expansions for the bakery.

“It’s just been constant, the need to grow,” he said.

In part, that growth stems from an expansion of items offered by the bakery, Korte said. When he took over the business from its original owner and namesake Edna, the bakery sold mostly desserts and offered just two types of bread. Edna owned two ovens and one mixer, and then Korte ramped up the operation to five mixers and four ovens, and he is preparing to buy a fifth oven.

Now, bread sales make up the bulk of the business with about 1,000 loaves baked per day, Korte said. The business employs 80 people, most of whom work full time.

The company has become a staple along the Central Coast, supplying bread and prepackaged foods to several downtown businesses and industries across the county and beyond. Clientele includes about 50 restaurants — Big Sky Cafe, Mother’s Tavern, Firestone Grill and McLintock’s, to name a few; universities, namely Cal Poly and the UC Santa Barbara; and hospitals, including Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center. The bakery also delivers to Amtrak and a number of hotels along the Central Coast.

Beginning at 4 a.m. each day, 14 delivery vans stocked with dozens of varieties of breads, pastries and desserts leave the bakery, which is near San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.

They haul their baked goods to customers throughout San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Fresno and Kern counties. Edna’s uses an outside company for overnight shipping elsewhere in California.

The statewide output means the company faces both local and national competition, Korte said, including Sysco, US Foods, Brian’s Artisan Bread Co. and Farb’s Bakery. Korte said he tries to stay ahead of the curve by offering a great product and excellent customer service, including good drivers who also can serve as the face of the company.

“From that perspective,” he said, “I don’t think we have any competition.”

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