"It was magic," says Dave. "Glenn let me tell my story—and also let me make good bread." Indeed, Glenn didn't limit Dave to cheap materials. He saw the organic market becoming ever more gourmet, and he reckoned, If people are willing to pay $6 for a cup of coffee, we sure as heck can sell a $5 loaf of bread. "I told Dave to pull out all the stops," says Glenn. So Dave began concocting the company's most deluxe line of breads ever, replete with organic flour, organic blue cornmeal, and organic cane juice from Paraguay. The in-house catch phrase was, "Good organic ingredients and lots of them."
It's a Friday morning, and Dave is standing by NatureBake's ovens, on a concrete floor slick with the oil of crushed seeds. He's tweedling at his BlackBerry as he eyes a rack full of Good Seed. With his Celtic-knot tattoo jutting out from one of the cutoff sleeves of his white shirt, he looks badass, even in a hairnet. And he exudes a burly ease as he strolls through the plant. "All right, all right," he says, plucking a chunk of dough out of the mixer to size up how much it has risen. "Cool."
He passes a couple of line workers dividing huge mounds of dough into loaves by hand. "I can do that job twice as fast as anyone here," he says.
Outside, in the break area, he holds court, smoking. Two guys at the picnic table are felons, and they are sitting down as he stands and paces. The talk is about how hard life is after prison, when nobody wants to rent to you or give you a job, and Dave sort of shines as a savior. "I approached him in the parking lot," says one man, Lewis Starr, "and he gave me an application and a free loaf of bread."
"Realistically," says Dave, "these guys had as much chance of working out as anyone. They're good workers. And this guy's daughter," he adds, pointing, "is hot. I mean, she's smoking hot."
Everyone laughs, and in the six or eight visits I will have with Dave, his warm, shaggy beneficence will win out every time. He's charming, in his own rough way. Still, there's a storm brewing inside him. His life is not settled, and at times he will soliloquize almost absent-mindedly, like a teenager trying to piece together who exactly he is. "My relationships with women," he tells me, "that's a problem. I've been away from women so long, you know, and all these women have had all these different experiences. I'm on a totally different wavelength." His last girlfriend was a 27-year-old onetime topless dancer who approached him at the bakery. "I'm just not mate material," he says. "If it lasts more than two days with a girl, I gotta go. I don't need anybody -- and I get tired of people saying, 'Why don't you listen to my bellyaching?' I've already suffered. I don't want to be around somebody who's still going through it. I'm into what I'm doing."
When Dave got going on his own line of bread, back in 2005, he worked 100 hours a week; he tweaked recipes and supervised crews. Dave wanted whole shifts of workers to transition to making his bread; he wanted the marketing people to get DKB into more stores. "I needed an organization around me," he says, "but people were hesitant. I was just another guy scrambling for power, and I think they felt that if they listened to me, that would be disloyal to Glenn. I fought and I fought and I fought to build up a team. I wanted to get the bread out there, but that first year, I was all alone. I'd come back from the farmers' markets, where I was getting all this love, and people would be whispering about me. They were thinking, Who is this drug addict to tell me how to do my job? He's doing great things, but how long before he starts using again?"
The worst conflicts were with Shobi, who was given the job of designing the labels for the Killer Bread bags. Dave hovered over his nephew's computer. "That looks good," he would say, "but move that Good Seed logo just a little bit that way."
"Yeah? Why don't you just do it yourself?" said Shobi.
"We were at each other's throats," Shobi says now. "Finally, I just told him to fuck off." For weeks, the two men stayed up late, sending each other brutal and exactingly detailed e-mails. Shobi composed a list of 15 complaints about Dave. "You are incapable of intelligent conversation that does not involve yelling," he wrote. "You wear cutoffs and sleeveless clothes in the bakery…You have an 'I am god of bread, bow down' aura around you that makes me sick to my stomach.…You threatened to hit me.…You are not going to change, and I am not going to change. In the end, it's either going to be you or me."
Dave called Shobi's attacks lies. But he agreed that they couldn't work together. "A herd of camels would graze for a lifetime in the eye of a needle first," he wrote.
Meanwhile, NatureBake's assembly line convulsed as it tried to crank out Killer Bread. The dough was so thick with seeds that it didn't quite hold together. Loaves didn't rise sufficiently. Sometimes they reached the slicing machine in odd, oblong blobs that had to be tossed—a disaster, for already Killer Bread was yielding a razor-thin profit margin (thanks to the expensive seeds), and NatureBake was in trouble.
The company's move would end up costing $2.2 million, after renovations. And NatureBake's organic wheat costs were skyrocketing, thanks in part to rising Chinese demand and droughts in Brazil and Australia. In the early days of DKB, the company paid about $11 for a 50-pound sack; in 2008, the price leapt to $39. (It now hovers at about $25.) Glenn, who is the bakery's sole owner, was losing sleep. "My name's on the bottom line of every loan," he says. "If this place goes down, I'm penniless. I'm done."
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