A handwritten message scrawled on parchment and taped to the inside of the glass door recounts one perspective of the abrupt closure of the Great Harvest Bread Co. location in Kalispell at the end of March.
“Dear loyal customers,” the sign reads. “It’s with great sadness that I have to inform you that we will be permanently closed. Both staff and customers were given no notice and ownership/mgmt has disappeared.”
The note goes on to thank loyal customers for their years of patronage, but does not offer any further explanation for the locked doors and dark store.
Nancy Gordley owned the franchise store for 14 years, but sold it to a chef on Dec. 31, 2017. She said her family had some medical problems to deal with, and it made sense to sell the store with everything going on.
She said she didn’t know why the fall from successful business to shuttered doors had been so swift. She has had conversations with employees who were left out to dry because of the decision, which she said she found upsetting.
“I owned it for 14 years and I built a good business and I feel bad for the customers,” Gordley said.
The bakery chain, which now has over 200 franchises in the U.S. and a handful of international locations, was started in Great Falls in 1976. The Kalispell store was the second location, and opened in 1978. Its corporate headquarters are in Dillon and the company still makes all its bread from wheat harvested nearby, according to information available on the company’s website.
According to a statement from the Great Harvest Bread Co. CEO and Chairman of the Board Mike Ferretti, the decision to shutter the Kalispell bakery was made without notice to any of the employees who work at the store.
“As a franchise, we are equally as disappointed in the closure of this iconic bakery,” Ferretti said. “It is unfortunate that this store has closed. We proactively worked with the manager to keep the bakery open. He became unresponsive to repeated attempts by the GHF staff to make contact with him.”
A Bigfork-based property management company that is listed in county records as the owner of the building didn’t return a request for comment on the status of the space.
Ferretti said the corporation was interested in opening another store in the Kalispell area, depending on if they find a suitable franchisee.
As of now, the nearest stores are in Missoula, Helena, Great Falls and Spokane, Washington.
Reporter Peregrine Frissell can be reached at (406) 758-4438 or email@example.com.