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 July 30, 1999

Success rises at Just Baked

GREELEY — Tracy Smith’s second career has been a hot rise.

Just Baked Inc., launched in Greeley in 1994, was on a roll from the beginning. So surprising was its initial success that Smith and his family suffered from exhaustion.

“People were lined up outside the door,” Smith remembers. “The waits were long, and we were very apologetic about it all. But I’ve never been so tired in my life. I was so tired sometimes, I would forget what I was doing.”

Smith, his wife and three children are working shorter hours these days, but they’re still pulling the oars. The addition of 12 employees at Just Baked’s downtown store means the family doesn’t spend all of their time pushing bagels across the counter.

“It’s still a lot of hard hours,” Smith said, “but without all the stress and strain we had at the beginning.”

Smith’s midlife career change was not undertaken lightly. After two decades as a livestock feed field representative for the agricultural giant Cargill Inc., the world’s largest privately held company, Smith was ready for a change.

His first notion was to bake and sell whole-grain specialty breads, following a retail trend that began to blossom in the early 1990s. As he began a yearlong survey of baking businesses in preparation for his new endeavor, the bagel industry caught Smith’s eye.

“Throughout my travels with Cargill, I would stop in at bakeries and bagel shops, seeing what they were doing right, what they were doing wrong,” Smith said. “By the time I was ready to leave, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do.”

Smith and his family laid the groundwork for the business during the spring and summer of 1994, and opened Aug. 1 that year in one of downtown Greeley’s most sought-after locations.

The first-floor corner of the 1902 building at Ninth Street and Ninth Avenue, directly across from the Weld County Courthouse, has a 15-foot pressed-tin ceiling and huge windows that run the perimeter.

One of Smith’s first decisions was to put the windows to use.

“That was a way of having our production very open to the public,” He said. “All the baking was done in the front window. People were amazed to see all the production going on.”

Six years later, Just Baked is in four locations, having partnered with a Total gas station and convenience store on 23rd Avenue and two Agland convenience stores, one on 35th Street, the other on the city’s eastern fringe at U.S. Highway 85 and 16th Avenue.

Greeley West High School students and faculty keep the 35th Street location hopping, but Smith said the U.S. 85 outlet is running behind expectations.

“It’s a different market there,” he said. “Lots of truckers, and truckers are mostly into a thermos of coffee, a pack of cigarettes and a donut.”

The downtown location remains a hub for socializing among shoppers and professionals. The path from the courthouse doors to Smith’s shop is well-worn.

“This is one of the best things that’s happened in Greeley,´ said retiree Hal Sutton, a mid-morning regular. “It’s a very pleasant place to be.”

Smith’s business focus has begun to change during the past few months, as his wholesale bread business has bloomed out of the Just Baked production building in east Greeley.

As well as the retail bagel outlet did from the beginning, the bread business is doing even better.

“After the first 120 days, it’s going faster than the bagel business ever did,” Smith said.

Smith’s wife, Linda, who works as the United Way of Weld County’s campaign director, and three teenage children all have continuing roles in the business. Son Ryan, 18, knows all the ropes, Smith said, and runs the production center when school schedules permit.

Daughter Lindsay, 16, handles all the accounting, bookkeeping and payroll chores for Just Baked.

“Our 14-year-old, Julie, is the social director of the family,” Smith said. “She has more regular favorite customers than anybody else who works here. The county coroner and her are the best of buddies.”

Smith’s second life as a bagel and bread maven seems an unlikely turn. His bachelor’s degree in animal science from Colorado State University, and the long years with Cargill, would point most other people in another direction.

“I don’t know that I ever ate a bagel until about 1985 or so,” Smith said. “For the longest time, I didn’t even know what a bagel was.”

GREELEY — Tracy Smith’s second career has been a hot rise.

Just Baked Inc., launched in Greeley in 1994, was on a roll from the beginning. So surprising was its initial success that Smith and his family suffered from exhaustion.

“People were lined up outside the door,” Smith remembers. “The waits were long, and we were very apologetic about it all. But I’ve never been so tired in my life. I was so tired sometimes, I would forget what I was doing.”

Smith, his wife and three children are working shorter hours these days, but they’re still pulling the oars. The addition…

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