Bread Chef Rises on Customer Loyalty

BOARDMAN, Ohio — Upon entering the glass doors, the smell of freshly baked bread is noticeable. The pleasing scent is an everyday occurrence for Bread Chef owner Mike Landgraff.

Landgraff opened Bread Chef 12 years ago. He has 10 employees and every day the crew bakes a variety of breads and baked goods.

“I learned how to get around a bakery at Nemenz IGA,” Landgraff says. “I started reading some articles about what was going on in bigger cities with hand-made bread and natural starters and hand-shaping and different ovens. And I really always just wanted to do that since I read about it.”

Business is brisk every day at the bakery. Landgraff cut the bakery’s hours because of COVID-19, but it has remained open with the full-time staff intact.

Bread that is not sold every day is donated to local food banks and Big Reach Center for Hope. Recently, some of the local food banks were unable to pick up donations, so employees took the bread to Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley. 

“There’s a lot of volunteer work my people do personally behind the scenes,” Landgraff says. “They’re very generous.”

With artisan bakeries few and far between in the area, Bread Chef’s competition comes from chain grocery stores. But being a small business allows the employees and the customers to develop relationships. 

And those relationships have helped the business to grow beyond what Landgraff originally imagined.

“There’s plenty of bread around town,” Landgraff says. “You’ve got big clubs with bread; you’ve got grocery stores with bread; but we’ve got tremendous loyalty from our customers.”

Rally Around Small Business is sponsored by Home Savings Bank.