Great Harvest Bread
A Fresh Start
In The Beginning...

In 1976 whole wheat bread didn’t exist, at least not on a viable commercial basis. People ate white bread and they bought it from the grocery store. All that changed in 1976 when Pete and Laura Wakeman opened the  original Great Harvest Bread store  in Great Falls, Montana. Pete and Laura were a young couple that just graduated from college. They actually put themselves through school by making and selling bread from a roadside stand back in Connecticut.

After graduating they drove out West to take a little hiking trip along the Continental Divide from Yellowstone Park to Glacier Park. At the end of the hike they couldn’t imagine living anywhere other than Montana and eventually settled in Great Falls.  They noticed an old bakery on First Avenue North that had closed and they inquired about buying some of the equipment. As the story goes, at the time Pete and Laura had about $200 cash to their name but with some smart negotiating, a lot of hard work, and plenty of cleaning and restoring of the building and equipment, they opened the doors to Great Harvest. People still talk about the line of people stretching all the way down the block, waiting to buy hot, fresh, whole-wheat bread.

Within a couple of years Pete and Laura started the Franchise operation and in 1982 they decided to sell the original bakery and devote themselves fulltime to growing the Franchise. That is when Pete Rysted, came into Great Harvest.

The Year Was 1982... Enter Pete Rysted

Pete operated out of the original bakery for the next 16 years.  In 1998 he built a new bakery and simply flipped on the Fresh Bread sign and patrons started coming to the new bakery.  The switch wasn't too tough, since the new bakery was next door!  Pete hung up his apron after 33 years of great baking and can even be found kicking around the bakery today (in between Skiing, white water rafting and other awesome adventures).

Enter the Connells (2016)

Laura and Ryan have been friends since elementary and decided a year after highschool to go on ahead and be friends for life!  We've travelled around the world in the Air Force.  Kids hail from Eastern Washington, England, Japan and California.  We have lived in Great Falls longer then any other place and quickly fell in love with the city, so after nearly 12 years in the Air Force, we decided to try a new path and purchased the bakery from Pete.  With a Pete or Laura operating the original bakery, Pete knew we would be a good fit!  We have loved owning and operating such a special place and look forward to the next 30 years!

From 1976 Until Now

So, in 1976 no one made whole wheat bread and specialty bread stores didn’t exist. I don’t think many people gave Pete and Laura much chance of long-term survival in business. Great Harvest is now 40 years old. Great Harvest has over 200 stores across the country — including Alaska & Hawaii — selling over $100 million worth of bread and products. You can buy a wide variety of breads in grocery stores these days and specialty bread stores in addition to Great Harvest are all over the country. America has changed the way it buys and eats bread. Strange as it seems, it all began with one little bread store in Great Falls, Montana. I wonder what the next thirty years will bring?  
Great Harvest Bread of Great Falls 
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