Living Bread: A Hudson Valley Bakery Against All Odds

With just $500 and no college degree, many would expect a financially unstable and generally unsuccessful future. But Daniel Leader used exactly this to open Bread Alone, an artisan bread shop currently valued at $25 million. 

On Wednesday, Oct. 2, Bread Alone founder Leader came to SUNY New Paltz as the first stop in his book tour for his new book, “Living Bread: Tradition and Innovation in Artisan Bread Making.” He discussed his journey founding the shop and promoted his book before opening the floor for a Q&A and book signing.

There are many artisan bread shops in New York and across the globe. The company prides itself on creating simply-made bread that is environmentally responsible and made fresh every day. Leader explains that part of why this mission is significant is because, as his son taught him, “the future of Bread Alone is not on how good the bread is, but how good the mission is.”

The mission also suits Bread Alone’s location in the Hudson Valley. After learning more about the bakery, Chris Napolitano, entrepreneur, consultant and professor for SUNY New Paltz’s School of Business, said the Hudson Valley is the “perfect” location for a business like Bread Alone.

“Some of the greatest business ideas failed because they don’t have a captive audience,” Napolitano said. The professor and business consultant said that the “Woodstock-y feel” of Bread Alone is embraced in the Hudson Valley. 

Leader launched Bread Alone at age 25, just three years after taking a trip to Europe with some of his coworkers from a French restaurant he was working at in New York City. On the trip, he was struck by how much he enjoyed the experience of frequenting bakeries to buy fresh bread to the tune of whatever jubilant music the bakery was playing that night. Leader then decided he wanted to bring a similar experience to New York.

Bread Alone was established with an abundance of passion and excitement. The bakery was not, however, established with a business plan. Leader learned much of what he knows now by asking questions and planning carefully, as he knew that bad financials could lead to the downfall of any great business. Although he has made it work, Leader says his biggest regret in life is that he did not finish his schooling.

There were many financial ups and downs for the business, but the breakthrough came when Craig Claiborne, sometimes referred to as the “king of food writing,” wrote that Bread Alone had the best bread in New York. Within 24 hours, 12 book publishers had called Leader with book offers. 

“Living Bread: Tradition and Innovation in Artisan Breadmaking” is Leader’s fifth book, which will be released on Oct. 15. Amazingly, it has already been ranked no. 15 in all books about bread. 

The success of the bakery did not come without difficult years. Bread Alone has fallen into debt in the past, and after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, the bakery experienced a 35% decrease in sales.

By sticking to the wholesome values of the mission statement and being honest and careful in all that they do, Bread Alone has risen to the value of $25 million all from an ambitious idea, strong ethics and planning and $500.

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About Amayah Spence 53 Articles
Amayah Spence is a fourth-year psychology major, minoring in journalism and serving as editor-in-chief of the Oracle. She believes journalism should lend a microphone to those whose voices are not typically amplified without one, and that is the goal she consistently pursues as a journalist. Previously, she wrote for the River, the Daily Free Press and the Rockland County Times.