Meet the woman who came back to Dayton to resurrect her parents’ shuttered bakery

Daytonian of the Week Jennifer Evans of Evans Bakery: ‘We blend our history with our future and hope it all turns out all right.’

There has been a bakery on the premises at 700 Troy St. in Dayton since 1927.

And pretty much the ONLY reason there’s STILL a bakery on the premise has an awful lot to do with a life-changing decision that Jennifer Evans and her partner Matt Tepper made seven years ago, when they gave up lucrative careers in another state to return to Dayton and resurrect the bakery that Jennifer had watched her parents operate when she was growing up.

Let's let Jennifer — our Daytonian of the Week — tell you the story herself because it's a good one.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

It's been nearly seven years since you returned to Dayton to reopen the bakery that your parents had operated for 35 years, from 1969 to 2004. What led you to that decision, and how has it changed the arc of your life?

Growing up, I never had a desire to carry on the bakery business. I got an engineering degree and worked in that field in Michigan for 15 years. I enjoyed that part of my professional life, but I was ready for a change; I just didn't know what kind of change.

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It so happens that my partner, Matt Tepper (who I met in grad school, had originally come from Michigan, and worked those 15 years in public administration) was also looking for a change around the same time. The person my parents sold their business to had closed it down. They still owned the property and the equipment, and they very much wanted to see a bakery remain in the neighborhood.

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All of that came together at the right time, and it just made sense to start a new chapter in our lives. My life is completely different now, but with my daughter grown and gone, I have the time to dedicate to a small business, which is definitely not a 9 to 5 job.

Describe a "normal" work day for you as a bakery owner.

Fifteen hours a day, six days a week is now normal. I'm the first one here and the last one to leave. We have a small group of great employees  who help produce and sell our products. I get to work on all aspects of the business, which I like. On a good day, I also have some time to focus on neighborhood affairs, which we are very involved in as well.

What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through the challenge?

The Memorial Day tornado was a challenge. The bakery was just outside the main damage zone. While we sustained no damage, we had no power for two days and lost a good bit of our inventory. Matt is president of the Old North Dayton Neighborhood Association and was (and still is) on the front line of recovery.

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Even after the bakery reopened that week, we were working a great deal on those efforts, and that was very stressful but important ... helping the neighborhood recover was a top priority. When you need to push through a challenge, you just do it. We had a lot of support from our neighbors during those first few weeks, and that was a blessing.

What are your favorite places to eat and/or drink in the Dayton area?

The Golden Nugget restaurant has been a family favorite for nearly 50 years. So are Amber Rose and Charlie’s Deli, in our neighborhood. We also do a decent amount of wholesale business and try to patronize those businesses, including 416 Diner, Reza's Dayton, and Table 33 downtown; Flanagan's Pub by the University of Dayton (my alma mater); Eudora Brewery; and so on. We appreciate and support the network of small businesses that make our neighborhoods and economy thrive.

What’s your guilty pleasure — beyond all of the delicious items that are on your bakery shelves?

I would give up donuts and bread for ice cream any day.

What inspires you about Dayton?

Dayton is a city of neighborhoods, each with our own unique identities, leadership and strengths. At the same time, these neighborhoods often come together to help with problems and celebrate successes. I'm thankful I have been able to return to be part of that.

What to you see in Dayton's future, and in the future of Evans Bakery?

A good portion of our business is continuing to sell the products people know and love ... much of which goes back to my parents' day. At the same time, I enjoy developing new products that people request and then introducing them to other customers. So, we blend our history with our future and hope it all turns out all right.

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I see Dayton doing the same thing. We have a rich history of invention and innovation, and we commemorate that well, but we also need to change and move forward to remain viable. We both live and work in Old North Dayton. I see it change all the time, and I work both in the business and in the neighborhood to keep that change positive.

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