Eric Breeze has always been a man of action. A Vietnam veteran who later became a star performer in a fast-paced business world, he was the one his company sent from state to state when they wanted to turn around financially troubled stores or open new ones. Breeze had a solid career, a family and a nice house on a golf course in Carson City, Nevada. His wife had already retired from nursing and Breeze seemed to be well on his way toward a cozy retirement, too.
It wasn’t until he was in a hospital bed, taking calls from a barely sympathetic employer who was pushing him to get back on the road, that Breeze decided it was time to work for himself. He was 53, full of determination and experienced at making major business decisions. In October 2001, Breeze opened a House of Bread Bakery Cafe franchise operation in Reno. As the owner of the company’s longest-running franchise, he has years’ worth of stories and opinions to share.
How important is previous experience for a House of Bread Bakery Cafe franchise owner?
“You’re talking to a guy who knows how to push ‘start’ on a microwave,” jokes Breeze. “I went through the class and learned how to bake but I will never be a baker. That’s not what I set out to do. I am a good business man; I knew I had the where-with-all to run my own business. No, you don’t need the experience but you do have to know the basics. And you surround yourself with the right people.”
Eric places emphasis on building relationships and responsibilities so employees know they are important to the business. His baker has been with him for 10 years now, and some staff have passed the five-year mark.
What sets House of Bread Bakery Cafe apart from other franchises?
Once he began exploring business ownership in 2000 and 2001, Breeze was impressed by the House of Bread Bakery Cafe franchise model, and especially the products. It was the first bread business of its kind in the area. Breeze has watched similar establishments come and go but his bakery business has stood strong for 14 years.
“We are the last standing made-by-scratch, made-from-hand bakery in Reno. We make a good quality product, sell it at a good, reasonable price, and provide excellent customer service. If we can continue to do that we’ll continue to do well,” says Breeze.
Over the years, the bakery has increased the number of selections and become more diverse in its offerings of savory breads and sweets, along with plenty of healthy food. The signature item of the bakery remains central to its identity, however; and quality is just as important as ever.
“No two loaves look exactly the same. There are no preservatives or artificial sweeteners,” explains Breeze. “That sets us apart because we make an extremely good loaf of bread and it’s good for you. Sheila [McCann, founder] has found the magic bullet that sets us apart from everybody else.”
Finding Bliss in Serious Business
“I always said I will do whatever it takes to make this business successful,” says Eric. “I don’t look at a start time, end time, day off – I don’t look at this as a job.”
Breeze points out that there are many responsibilities to take seriously. Ask him what he likes best about being a franchise owner, however, and you’ll get a running list that is hard to narrow down.
“I enjoy running my business, I enjoy working with my people,” he says. “I enjoy the schedule, and setting my own hours for the most part, but I enjoy working too. I enjoy what I do.”