By Griffin Jones
“Once you start something, people get excited. They want to be a part of it,”
It’s a good thing Five Points Bakery is open on Monday. Talking to Kevin Gardner at my least favorite point in the week was a good way to set my focus.
Kevin and his wife Melissa opened Five Points on Rhode Island Street in 2009. Melissa had worked at and managed Dolci Bakery on Elmwood Ave for a number of years. She brought in Kevin, who was working as a General Contractor. They liked it, but felt they had to start something new. People already loved it for what it was, why change an established business?
“Nobody had a bread made from local flour.” The Gardners were interested in breaking away from buying wheat as a commodity. It was volatile, unsustainable. A major wheat fire in Russia caused a shortage that led wheat prices to skyrocket. “Why should something going on in Russia affect me on the west side?”
So the Gardners negotiated a fixed price with local wheat farmers that meets the financial needs of both parties. “It’s a fair price,” Kevin said, referencing that he still pays the farmers the same price when wheat prices plummet. “It doesn’t matter what the market does,”
That’s scary to do in Buffalo. Conventional business wisdom, especially in WNY, is to keep the bottom line as low as possible to protect profit. Kevin argues that responsible business is good for the top line.
“When you do it effectively, the customers care. They’re not the same customers they were fifty years ago. You have a product people feel, really, really, good about,” As a businessman and a capitalist, I dwelled on that last remark for a while. How many businesses offer a product that makes people feel really, really good? That’s the only thing that overcomes price in the digital age. “We’re not just getting by. We’re profitable,” Five Points Bakery has paid out $30,000 in bonuses to their employees over the last four years.
Five Points wasn’t somehow exempt from the uncertainty that all businesses face.”You never really know. There’s always an element of risk,”
But the Gardners recognized that being remarkable, and doing a few things very well, is the only way to be sustainable in all areas. As a digital marketer I spend my career trying to persuade businesses to step into this space. I asked Kevin if there’s any way to expedite the process.
“I really don’t think there is a way to rush it. What gets people to change their mind is when they see it on their news feed and think, ‘what am I missing?'”Kevin added that pioneers are always needed to set an example for the majority. “Present a model. Live well. Show people you can be successful,”
Thank you for figuring out a way to go first, Melissa and Kevin. Now we have a different, for me a more desirable, image of what successful looks like.