Jeff and Toni Fluke, owners of Great Harvest Bread Company in Maple Grove, share why they have worked and lived in Plymouth for more than 30 years.
When did you first start baking bread?
Toni Fluke (TF): Really, I didn’t start baking much bread before we opened our store. The franchise does an awesome job training us for ownership. I would consider myself more of a sweets baker than a bread baker. I’m having fun learning this, though. It’s much different than the bread I’ve made at home.
Jeff Fluke (JF): I have no baking experience. As the kids were growing up, we made a point of eating as many meals together as possible, but Toni and the kids really did the bulk of the cooking through the years. We develop traditions around meals and fun ideas, and I think that is where our love of good wholesome food came from. We typically like made-from-scratch, simple foods—no processed or out-of-the-box meals. Great Harvest fits into that style nicely. I quickly learned that baking good quality bread and sweets is much harder than it looks.
How did you get involved with Great Harvest Bread Company?
TF: We were customers of the Minnetonka store. Once we did some research about the company, we realized it was exactly what we were looking for in a small business. We didn’t want a business that we would watch from the sidelines as others did all the work. We wanted a hands-on business and hands-on we got. The mission statement of the company exactly fits who we are: Be loose and have fun, bake phenomenal bread, serve and give generously.
JF: Plus, we truly believe in understanding what is going into our bodies and the long-term impacts of eating right. Great Harvest fits that to a “T.”
Was baking bread something you intended to turn into a career?
TF: Not baking bread, but I had in the back of my mind that my cookies may be something that people might pay for. Our kids’ friends always called me “Momma Fluke” because I was always baking and making them treats.
JF: Not in a million years. For me, it was more in the Great Harvest mission statement. We love this community and wanted to give back. This provides a great opportunity to help our community in so many ways.
What is your favorite part about running a small business?
TF: Our awesome customers and amazing team of people we’ve hired. In other words, the relationships we’ve developed. It’s amazing how many regulars we have and how many people are so glad that we are here.
JF: In addition, we enjoy the opportunity to give back to the community. We feel very lucky to have raised a great family and developed many lasting relationships over the years in this area. We feel the time is right to give back. So many people and organizations need help and support, and this provides us the opportunity to do that.
What is the most challenging?
TF: Keeping up with the ebbs and flows of retail. We are in our slow time right after our incredibly busy time. It’s hard to adjust to the slower pace.
JF: We rely on customers coming into the bakery. We wake up every day and wonder if people will go out of their way to make an extra stop for bread and goodies. We understand everyone has many other options and it is up to us to make that stop worthwhile and important to our customers.
What is it like working with your spouse?
TF: I have the most amazing husband and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to spend time in something we both really enjoy. He is certainly the calming force and I’m the emotional crazy one.
JF: Toni is an amazing wife and friend. I tend to be the calm, financial-orientated one and Toni is the creative, energetic force in the bakery. We make a good team.
What is it about Plymouth that has made you stay for the past 30 years?
TF: We love the area. It’s close to everything. We are Twins fans and it’s easy to get to the new stadium. We felt the school system was very good and a great place to raise two awesome kids.
JF: There are so many things to do. We cross-country ski, walk and bike; the trail systems are wonderful. Plus, the people we have met and the lasting relationships developed through the years are precious. We couldn’t imagine raising a family and living anywhere else. This feels like home.
Are there any moments in particular that stick out in your mind and demonstrate why Plymouth is such a great community to live in?
TF: We absolutely love all of the convenient trail systems because we love to walk and bike ride. When the kids were young, we chose to move from a home in Plymouth to one only six blocks away since we loved the area so much.
JF: When the kids were little, we would simply get together with neighbors and BBQ, play games and enjoy time together. Then, as the kids grew, they got involved in more formal activities and we got close to the coaches and parents involved. We made lasting friendships every step of the way. This is the Plymouth way.
What are your plans for the future?
TF: We plan on staying in Plymouth for the next couple of years—at least until we know our son has found a job and will not be moving back home. We’d love to downsize at some point, but every time we talk about it, we both realize the time is not right. We are only eight miles from our store and we both do not mind the short drive to the store.
JF: We plan to stay in the area and run Great Harvest for a long time. We meet great people and are learning every day. We’ve only just begun.