<bt>Jules Verster, a new business owner in Burke, has a simple recipe for success. "We have awesome cookies," he said.
Verster and his wife, Nicky, recently established the Great Harvest Bread Co. outlet to provide the residents of Burke with fresh bread. “We mill the freshest flour. It is never more than 24 hours old," he said. The mill inside the bakery is one of only a few in Burke.
Tara Bigdeli and Robert Liverdy, employees at the bakery, agree that the Versters have created a friendly atmosphere in the bakery, for both the employees and the customers. “Kneading is hard work,” said Bigdeli, “but Nicky and Jules have created a great atmosphere for us to work in.”
“It is hard work, but by the second day, you get a hang of it,” said Liverdy. “It’s definitely fun.”
David Dessoulavy, the baker, comes into the bakery at 4:30 every morning, and sometimes at 4 if a heavy day is expected.
“It is a perfect schedule for me, because then I have the rest of the day for myself," said Dessoulavy. His bread lyre, made out of five loaves of challah bread, sits on a shelf at the front of the store.
One of the reasons why the Versters chose Burke was the geography of the already existing Great Harvest bakeries in Northern Virginia. “Herndon, Centreville, Alexandria and Vienna all had a Great Harvest bakery, and there was a hole in this area," Jules Verster said. "If you lived in Burke, you had to drive 10 miles to the nearest Great Harvest.”
The second factor in the Versters' decision to open a bakery in Burke was the informed customer base. “The demographics in Burke are good,” said Jules Verster. “The income is good, and the population is well-informed.”
Since the population is well-informed, Verster and Great Harvest are not concerned about losing customers to the low-carb diet craze hitting the nation.
“When Atkins first came out, the company just told us to sit tight," Jules Verster said. He added that well-informed people will differentiate between good carbs, whole-grain breads and bad carbs, carbs that quickly turn to sugar in the body.
THE VERSTERS are hoping Great Harvest becomes a part of the community. The bakery has already participated in community projects, offering its products at social gatherings. Great Harvest offered its services at Braddock Nights at Royal Lake concerts, and the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim Meet at Lake Audubon. Verster hopes that in the near future, Great Harvest will join fellow residents at more social events. “If you’ve got an event where there’s going to be a couple of hundred people, we will set up a table and provide our products,” said Verster. “We want to be a part of the community, and giving bread is one of the ways.”
Verster grew up in South Africa, where bread is a basic part of the diet. When he first arrived in the United States, he found it hard to find good bread.
“Bread in South Africa is so good,” said Verster. "So, the one thing I struggled with when I came to the states is Wonder Bread.” In his search for bread that would satisfy his cravings, Verster came across the Great Harvest bakery in Herndon. “I immediately fell in love with it, and decided I wanted to be a part of it," he said.
The bakery has not experimented with South African recipes yet, but Verster hopes to incorporate a few of them in the months to come.
Lizzi Pittman has worked with Great Harvest for years. She worked in the Vienna store when she attended James Madison High School, and in the Herndon and Vienna stores during her college summers. She is a student at George Mason University, and working in a Burke store was a natural choice. “I’ve known Jules and Nicky for a long time,” said Pittman, “because they were always in the Herndon and Vienna stores.”
Stacy Sklar is originally from New York and a first-time customer at Great Harvest. “It is very nice,” was her first impression. “It reminds me of the local, family-owned, bakeries in New York.”
“If you believe in a product,” said Verster, “you’ll put your heart and soul behind it.” Verster said that he believes in his products because they are simple, healthy, down to earth and tasty.
Great Harvest Bread Co., is based out of Dillon, Mont. The last sentence of the company’s mission statement is, “And give generously to others.” The bakery in Burke complies with the statement by offering free bread at the store. Verster invites the residents to come and visit the bakery and try a free slice of bread. The bakery opened on July 9 and is located at 6030-G Burke Commons Road, Burke. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m., and on Saturday from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. For a menu and further information, visit www.love2loaf.com.