TRAVERSE CITY — Peter and Pearl Brown never saw the storm coming in 2008.
Back then, Peter Brown ran a successful staffing recruitment company that placed engineers on capital projects nationwide. The thriving business provided a comfortable life for the couple and their five children at their Old Mission Peninsula home.
Then the economic crash hit, and everything changed for the Browns.
“There was no up-front capital for projects anymore, and no one needed Peter to find staffing for them,” Pearl Brown said. “We went from being very comfortable to ... are we going to be able to keep our house?”
Through the clouds of fear rose a sunbeam of opportunity. The couple discussed their dwindling resources with their children and one of their boys mentioned to Pearl “Well, mom, you’ve always made a pretty mean loaf of bread,” and that comment sparked a new odyssey of baking for a living.
“I am one of these home school, hippie gals, and I said, ‘Let’s see if we can do this,’” Pearl Brown recalled.
They started small, baking bread from their home for sale at a Farmers Market. Representatives from the Department of Agriculture informed them they couldn’t at the time sell the product to the public if it wasn’t from a commercial kitchen, which prompted the couple to open Old Mission Multigrain baking operation at 1326 S. Airport Road.
What followed is a remarkable four-year run: step by step, the couple recruited wholesale customers across the state and sold bread to outlets from Petoskey to Novi. The success prompted Old Mission Multigrain’s expansion this week into a new retail and wholesale bakery operation at 545 E. 8th St. in Traverse City.
White Tiger Martial Arts previously operated there. That business relocated to 1238 S. Garfield Ave. because it’s also seen significant growth.
Peter Brown said losing his staffing recruitment business is “bittersweet,” but he’s thankful it pushed the family in a different direction. The retail bakery will sell bread to the general public by Monday or Tuesday at the latest.
“It will take us a little while to get the bakery case up and running,” Peter Brown said. “We will be doing cookies and cinnamon roles and tarts and muffins and cupcakes and coffee.”
Pearl Brown said the bakery will give back to the community through the Pay it Forward Punch Card Project. Customers can make purchases that will lead to bakery credits for the homeless and less fortunate of northern Michigan.
“This is a match made in heaven,” Pearl Brown said of the expansion and move. “We are so excited to offer more people our product, and this building will allow us to do that.”