The next best thing since sliced bread may have opened in January on the Gulf Coast, in the form of Breadsmith of Bradenton. As the first Florida franchise of the Milwaukee-based brand, Breadsmith of Bradenton is co-owned by George Prentice, Corey Grubb and Jeremy Collins. Both Prentice and Grubb became acquainted with the company when they lived in Milwaukee. “I’ve been eating it since 1993,” says Prentice, who fell in love with the product after watching many of the mom-and-pop bakeries he had known throughout his life close their doors. While they owned nightclubs up north, Prentice and Grubb would haul frozen Breadsmith bread during their bus trips down to Florida. “Two-thirds of my freezer would be filled with Breadsmith bread to last until the next time we were up there,” Prentice adds. After retiring from their businesses, the pair decided to take their passion for the product to the next level by opening a franchise. “Living down here all these years, we realized that we basically live in a bread desert. On the whole west coast of Florida, there is no good bread. There are little bakeries that pop up here and there that make artisan-type breads; some of them last, and some of them don’t.  A lot of them don’t do any volume,” he says. 

Photography by Wyatt Kostygan

At Breadsmith, all the bread is baked fresh daily, and whatever is left over is donated to charitable organizations. Guests can purchase Daily Breads, like the mouthwatering French peasant or sourdough every day. On Tuesdays through Sundays, the shop sells additional special breads that are only available on their designated day. Breadsmith breads are made by hand, without additives and preservatives. Both the mixers and hearthstone ovens used are proprietary and are imported from Italy. Near the shop’s closing time, crowds often gather outside the window to watch the dough preparation. Best-selling breads include baguettes, sourdough and rye bread. With flavors ranging from Rosemary Garlic Ciabatta to Pie Breads—think apple, blueberry, strawberry or peach pie goodness swirled into a loaf of bread—that people use to make French toast. Because of Florida’s climate, many patrons sit outside and enjoy sweets like scones, and the scrumptious cinnamon rolls sell out by late morning. 

As the Gulf Coast has attracted residents from every corner of the country, Prentice says he and his team are still playing with their menu to figure out which products best fit the melting pot of local tastes. As it turns out, when people move to a new place, they bring their appetite for bread with them. Prentice hopes to expand into other markets like Tampa and Sarasota, and he’s also aiming to supply bread to local restaurants and shops. “We make bread that you just can’t get around here,” he adds. “The proof is in the tasting.”