Greg Farr is proof it’s never too late to change careers. “The biggest decisions you make in life are leaps of faith,” says Farr, 55, sitting in an office filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread.
Farr, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and US Airways captain for more than two decades, decided to take a leap of faith two summers ago, trading in his wings to buy into the Breadsmith bakery franchise.
He opened a Breadsmith in northeast Mesa (where he occasionally helps his staff bake the bread in addition to running the day-to-day business) and hasn’t looked back.
“It was like walking off the edge of a plank. There’s no going back,” Farr says of his decision to strike out on his own.
At the time, Farr says, two bankruptcies at the airline had affected his pension, and he had also been asked to put in more days on the road, which would mean less time with his wife and three children. Facing company-mandated retirement at age 60, he found himself at a crossroads.
While change can be scary, Farr appreciated the possibilities of the new opportunities that laid before him: “How many people get a chance to reinvent themselves?”
Farr knew he wanted to be his own boss. The big question was: the boss of what?
Relocating from Vermont to Arizona four years ago was the first step. Farr continued to fly for the airline while researching various ventures, including coffee, yogurt and computer businesses.
A visit to the International Franchise Expo in Washington, D.C., introduced him to the Breadsmith chain. Farr was impressed with the company, known for its handmade hearth-baked bread.
“I thought, ‘This is the bread I had in Europe,’ ” says Farr, recalling the six months he spent backpacking across Europe after college. “Europeans view bread differently. They buy it fresh every day from their corner bakery.”
With the apparent lack of East Valley bakeries specializing in freshly made bread, Farr thought the debut of the state’s first Breadsmith could do well.
In fact, Farr predicts American palates may just develop an appreciation for fine bread in the same way they did for fine wine and coffee.
He says customers from as far as Payson, Gold Canyon and Glendale have been flocking to his store, which specializes in bread.
Each day, their classic daily breads, which include ciabatta, baguettes, sourdough and rolls are joined by specialty varieties such as Tuscan herb formaggio, jalapeño cheddar corn bread and pepperoni bread. There is also an assortment of dessert breads, muffins, babka and scones.
Farr says new customers typically start out with country buttertop. “It looks the most familiar to them,” he explains, adding that he encourages his patrons to sample the different varieties before committing to a decision. His staff is also on hand to help with menu planning, offering suggestions on the types of bread that would pair well with their meal.
Farr says the ingredients and process used make his baked goods stand out.
“We use our own proprietary flour and import our cinnamon from Saigon and vanilla from Madagascar,” says Farr, adding that they bake their loaves in the wee hours using a Mondial Forni oven, which he describes as the “Ferrari of ovens.”
“Once people become used to fresh-made, high-quality bread, they can’t go back to the supermarket brands.”