Bread Rises Again Under Restaurant Owners

Long live Grand Traverse Bagel & Bakery.

The business run by Claudia DeMarco and her late husband Bob Stevenson closed in late autumn 2015 following a fire in its oven. But as it turns out, it was only closed for a few months. That’s because restaurateurs Glen Harrington and John McGee – owners of Harrington’s By the Bay, Sorellina, McGee’s No. 72 and the new McGee’s No. 31 – decided they also could use a bakery.

“Glenn and I bought her product,” said McGee. “We’d been talking about baking some more of our own products as the company continued to grow.”

Then suddenly the bakery closed, and they could no longer find its breads, buns and bagels. But that just provided the opportunity the restaurant partners had been discussing.

“We contacted her and one thing led to another,” he said. “Now her family legacy has continued.”

The two purchased the name, recipes and its remaining equipment. They added some new equipment, including a mixer and a replacement oven. Then they had to decide where to house their new operation. McGee and Harrington considered the bakery’s former location in the East Bay plaza where Tom’s and Dunham’s are located, but decided that wasn’t right for them.

So they looked closer to their operations, and found the perfect spot under their noses. Located beneath McGee’s No. 72 was an unused space that had housed the carts when Grand Traverse Resort’s golf program was based at the location. Its 7,000 square feet was just being utilized strictly for storage.

“We ran the numbers. The Department of Agriculture looked at it and made recommendations and we were able to convert the cart barn into our baking facility,” said McGee.

They hired DeMarco and her son to teach their staff how to make the bakery’s popular products, and in May last year began baking once again under the Grand Traverse Bagel & Bakery name. The bakery is producing artisan breads, including three different kinds of rye, two sourdough varieties and cracked wheat, as well as buns. Crafting those bagels is still a ways down the road, however. That process involves boiling as well as baking.

“It’s a different animal,” said McGee.

But for the rest, they are all in. And not only is it supplying the company’s restaurants with bread, among the bakery’s customers are many other area restaurants, some of which were longtime customers of its former incarnation. They include Centre Street Café, Round’s Restaurant and the Bayview Inn Bar & Grill.

“Frankie (Bayview owner Frank Zarafonitis) kept asking, ‘When can I get my bread back?’” said McGee, who doesn’t view it as helping his competitors. “Traffic builds traffic,” he said.

The bakery’s products are also available at a number of groceries and specialty food outlets. Village Market in Elk Rapids and Rapid City, Hansen’s in Suttons Bay, Leland Mercantile, Anderson’s IGA in Glen Arbor, Bayside Market in Traverse City and Family Fare stores all carry the breads.

McGee said he and Harrington believe the bakery part of their operation, like its restaurants, will continue to grow. Currently it has 10 full-time employees.

“We want to continue our growth,” he said. “We didn’t (launch) with 30 accounts; we grew slowly. Coming into summer we will have 30 accounts. That’s a good production base.”

One thing the operation doesn’t have that its forebear did is a retail outlet. That too may come, though McGee said it hasn’t progressed beyond the discussion stage.

“We’ve always talked about retail for our other products. It’s on the horizon. Our expansion to (U.S.) 31 takes precedence,” he said.