END OF AN ERA: Local bakery owner says ‘We’re done’ after 17 years

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Loss of Dayton bakery leaves local restaurants scrambling.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Loss of Rahn’s Artisan Breads, long-time vendor at 2nd Street Market, affects local restaurants, too

Rahn Keucher has served his last giant pretzel, bagel, and chocolate-filled croissant at Dayton’s 2nd Street Market. And the closure of his bakery, Rahn’s Artisan Breads, has forced more than two dozen Miami Valley restaurants to scramble to find alternative sources for the specialty breads, rolls and buns that Keucher has supplied to them for nearly two decades.

 

“We’re done,” Keucher said Monday, two days after an emotional final day at the Five River MetroParks 2nd Street Market, where he had set up shop every week for 17 years. A long line of customers moved slowly past the Rahn’s display case throughout the morning, stopping to talk and pay their respects to Keucher and to thank him for the years of business and friendship.

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One customer gave Keucher her late father’s prized Cincinnati Reds spring-training jacket. Another slipped Keucher a $100 bill and refused to take it back.

“I received thank-you notes, cards, flowers,” Keucher said. “Everyone was very, very gracious.”

A selection of Rahn's Artisan Breads
A selection of Rahn's Artisan Breads

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The market had posted a notice on its Facebook page in mid-February announcing that Rahn’s would shut down at the end of the month, but in the last two weeks, potential “White-Knight”  investors stepped forward and entered into serious and extensive talks with Keucher and market officials about partnering with him to possibly keep Rahn’s open. But Keucher said late Monday that the closure is now final.

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Financial considerations were the primary factor in his decision, Keucher told the Dayton Daily News. Restaurant demand for his products took a hit in 2019 because of the Memorial Day tornadoes, the Oregon District mass shooting and the KKK rally in downtown Dayton. But the final blows came from a rash of equipment failures at his commercial bakery and breakdowns of delivery trucks, all of which would have been prohibitively expensive to repair or replace, the bakery’s owner said.

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Operating the bakery was physically demanding as well. Keucher worked a vampire-like, 70-to-75-hour-a-week schedule that would begin at 7 p.m. and end well after dawn when the bakery’s delivery trucks would start their routes. Weekends were even busier, with the retail operation of the vendor space in the public market.

Rahn Keucher in his bakery in 2018.
Rahn Keucher in his bakery in 2018.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Rahn’s Artisan Breads began shutting down its wholesale operations in mid-February, which forced the more than two dozen restaurant and food-service customers to search for other sources for their baked goods. Keucher had launched his bakery and wholesale business about five years before establishing his retail presence at the public market.

"We will truly miss Rahn and his faithful driver,” said Eric Jerardi, owner of The Little Store in Butler Twp. “Most importantly, we will miss his bread, pretzels, and baked goods. My customers are freaking out, most definitely. We wish him, his family and his staff all the best. Now it's time for them to get some sleep!"

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Rob Strong, owner of the Canal Street Arcade and Deli in downtown Dayton who also operated the former Fifth Street Deli in the Oregon District, said he has used Rahn’s breads for at least 15 years.

The closure “was a bit of a shock to us,” Strong said. “We had to scramble to find new suppliers for our bread. We are using three different bakers now to fill the void.”

This morning, Tuesday March 3, Lynda Suda, manager of the 2nd Street Market, called Rahn's Artisan Breads “a staple for the market and the whole community for almost two decades.”

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“Their giant pretzels every Saturday have always been guaranteed to bring a smile, but rest assured that with this change brings opportunity,” Suda said. “We will be actively seeking a new vendor who will be able to bring their own unique taste to the market.”

For his part, Keucher — who began his baking career by cooking in local restaurant kitchens that ranged from Pizza Hut to the former fine-dining restaurant l’Auberge — said after he sells the bakery equipment and winds down his business, he will be looking for employment opportunities.

“I have children,” he said, “and I have to get a job.”

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