Claudia DeMarco and her late husband Bob Stevenson used to be able to look out the window of their bagel and pizza shop on South Airport Road and count the cars that went by.
Traffic patterns and the region's population have changed dramatically since they opened in 1981, but DeMarco’s Grand Traverse Bagel and Bakery is still going strong, baking goods for restaurants and retailers throughout the region.
Today, the bakery supplies at least 100 area shops, groceries, schools and restaurants with freshly-made bagels and bread. The bakery also takes individual orders and delivers to stores of choice for pick up.
DeMarco estimates she and her 12-person staff bake 200 to 500 loaves of bread each day.
“Since we’ve been in business, we’ve probably baked over a million loaves of bread,” she said. “That’s a lot of bread!”
DeMarco and Stevenson moved to northern Michigan in 1978. They didn't, however, bring a background in the bakery business.
“My husband grew up in the city of Detroit (and) when he came back from Vietnam, he wanted to get out of the city,” ” she said.
They bought the Betsie River Campground in 1978. The couple operated the campground for three years, then purchased a Traverse City bagel and pizza shop. That shop, located in Hillside Plaza on South Airport Road, evolved into Grand Traverse Bagel and Bakery. It remained on South Airport for more than 25 years before moving to Munson Avenue in 2008.
The pizza portion of the business was short lived.
“Back then there were a lot of places making pizza, but Traverse City didn’t have a large population,” DeMarco said. “So, we decided to learn to make bread.”
“We saw a need that wasn’t being met,” she said, noting limited availability at the time for freshly-made bread in area restaurants and groceries.