Loaf after loaf, Portland bakeries’ chewy, crunchy, crusty breads continue to charm us. Several venerable bakeries, pieced together by forward-thinking family owners, have rolled dough for 25 years or more. Some, like Grand Central Bakery and NatureBake, makers of Dave’s Killer Breads, are passing their legacies on to the next generation whose members are deciding the direction of today’s next loaf.
Small, mid-sized, and locally owned, Portland’s bread companies insist on remaining true to the craft of hands-on baking and use of clean ingredients. Not all breads are artisan comos and ciabattas, but many are shaped by time-honored hearthbaking skills. Portland French Bread’s 120-year-old starter that sparks its sourdough exemplifies only one tradition baked into local breads. Several companies claim to have pulled Portland’s first artisan loaf out of the oven. We’ll leave that argument to the bakers. We’re just happy to have the breads.
Dave’s Killer Breads renew life
Dave Dahl is perfecting his Cinnamon Dog, a cinnamonsugar-studded baguette. “People are lovin’ it,” says Dahl, the straight-talking ex-con who turned his life around, in part with his line of fast-growing Dave’s Killer Breads. There’s a lot more to the sliced breads than Dahl’s prison record, comeback story, and clever product names like Good Seed and Blues Bread.
“Dave’s history wouldn’t mean anything to the breads if the product wasn’t fantastic,” says Glenn Dahl, Dave’s older brother and president of the 53-year-old Portland-based family-owned company, NatureBake, of which Dave’s Killer Breads is part. After Dave’s prison release in late 2004, the Dahl brothers and Glenn’s son, Shobi, 24, debuted the breads at Portland’s 2005 Summer Loaf festival.
Bread-lovers beyond vegans, who champion the loaves for their no-animal products, all-organic ingredients, swamped the booth. Not long after the festival, Dave’s well-muscled, guitar-slinging body and charismatic style helped land his line in stores and at farmers markets. This spring, the company moved to 5209 S.E. International Way in Milwaukie, where NatureBake produces premium organic sandwich bread. Dave’s Killer Breads, however, amp up the company’s hip quotient and outsell other NatureBake goods. The young at heart like the bread, Dave says. “And they keep buying it. They don’t say ‘OK, I’ve had enough of that.’”
Zupan’s Markets carries several Killer Breads (with the tagline “Just say no to bread on drugs”). Find 21-Whole Grain, Whole Grain Spelt, Good Seed, Powerseed, Cracked Wheat, and Nuts & Grains. Good Seed holds special meaning to Dave, says Glenn. “He really thought of himself as the bad seed for a long time.”