Person of the Week

Jenny MacReady

Small family business owner MacReady Artisan Bread Company, Door County, Wisconsin

I’ve fallen in love with the passion or spirituality of bread making.  This was after I graduated from law school.  The bakery offers a daily selection of homemade soups, sandwiches, desserts, and ice cream.  

1.  What led you to the mission of being a small family business owner of an artisan bread company?

I’ve fallen in love with the passion or spirituality of bread making.  This was after I graduated from law school in 2001.  All through law school and my career up until this past year, I did domestic violence work.  I started in the legal realm and worked my way up to be an executive director of a shelter system that  did work with battered women and homeless folks.  My specialty was doing expert witness testimony in severe domestic violence cases.

I liked feeling like I was making a difference.  I liked feeling part of a movement, but then I started feeling the world was a very dark place.  Part of it was because of a personal tragedy.  My husband, who is also my best friend, reminded me there is a world out there that doesn’t include violence.  I realized nobody gave me the responsibility – except me – of saving or thinking that I could save the world.

I was going home so emotionally exhausted that I didn’t have time to be the wife, daughter, or friend that I wanted to be.  My husband and I prayed a lot about it.  We talked to our family and decided to make a move.  We decided to be back with my father who had stage four cancer and near the place where the family tragedy occurred – where my grandmother was murdered.

My grandmother was from the Door County, Wisconsin area her whole life.  She was proud of what I did, but was worried about my heart.  She wondered, “Who is taking care of you, honey?”  The fact was that I wasn’t letting anybody take care of me.  I thought I could take care of myself and everyone else.  This wasn’t what everyone needed or wanted, but I put the weight of the world on my shoulders.  Part of it was I wanted to feel I was a good person and that I was productive in doing something for the world.

It took me a very long time – about twelve years in the work world – to realize that I can make a big difference in my small sphere of influence like my family or the people who love me and care about me.  It never occurred to me that this could be meaningful.  I left the agency and my husband and I came back to Egg Harbor in Door County Wisconsin to start this small business, MacReady Artisan Bread Company.

(The MacReady Artisan Bread Company features handcrafted artisan breads, gourmet accompaniments, including extra virgin olive oils muddled daily with fresh herbs as well as fresh sweet and savory Wisconsin butters.  The bakery also offers a daily selection of homemade soups, sandwiches, desserts, and ice cream.)

2.  What does this mission mean to you?

My husband and I create a product with our own hands and I work with and around my family.  The things we make are healthy.  People want them and are excited about them.  I work with people and connect with them just as much here as I could before when I was a director and a lawyer, but I don’t have the same power dynamic.  I love having a law degree.  I learned a lot and it makes me a better businesswoman, critical thinker, and speaker.  Even though I don’t want to be a lawyer and perhaps I never did, it was the right path to be on.

I don’t have to prove anything to anybody any more.  I’m not here to save anybody, but just to connect as a human being.  I feel that for the first time I can just be me – not me the executive director, not me who can help you out of a jam, not me who can give you legal advice – but just me.  I never knew that that could be enough.  It took some bumps in the road of my life to realize that being a good person with my family and the people I care about could be as rewarding or more rewarding than what I was doing before.

Our company is in Egg Harbor in Door County, Wisconsin.  I get to wake up every morning and go to work with my husband.  Everybody is happy to be here!  Everybody is here by choice.  It is very rare that people grow up in Door County and get “stuck” here.  People come here to escape from the rest of the world.  What I have found here is peace.  I’ve found home.

3.  What was your best day as a small family business owner of an artisan bread company?

The best day I can think of is when my dad started working for us just for fun.  We were really busy and had a staff of happy working people — including my dad.  I was watching him and he was so excited and proud and happy.  We aren’t a “restaurant” family!  My parents were both public school teachers.  (They loved what I was doing before, but they were worried about me.)  Now to watch Dad in his element in the family business, and to watch my husband in his element, and me in mine — made me see a synergy that I didn’t even know was possible.  I thought, “This IS a family business!” I don’t remember the exact date, but I have a vivid memory of working with my husband, my mom, and my dad and feeling like all was right with the world.

4.  What was your worst day as a small family business owner of an artisan bread company?

We haven’t had a bad day yet.  That’s a funny question for me now.  I can’t think of a bad day.  Not that I’m excited to wake up every morning – super early and start schlepping dough.  It’s a whole different feeling waking up – because we want to.  My other job I’d work long days and they felt like long days.  Here, it just feels like doing what we like, meeting people, and then I ask myself the question, “We get paid for this too?”  I haven’t had a worst day.

We have days when things happen – like the oven goes down or the dough hook breaks.  A couple of days ago, the hook broke and that’s an added expense.  That can be stressful but I’ve never had a day when my heart hurt or I was sad.

5.  How did you survive your worst day?

I can make it through those days because it’s not somebody being raped or battered or homeless.  It’s bread!  We love bread, but if it doesn’t get made that day, it will get made the next day.  I love that.  It’s not the bad day like I had before – a client getting murdered or something terrible happening.  The worse that can happen here is the dough hook breaks.  So what?  We get the afternoon off.  I think there will be harder days – like winter — but we are saving like little squirrels to make it through.

I wish I would have believed people when they told me that I don’t have to prove anything to anybody.  The only person that I have to answer to at the end of the day is me, my family, and our God.  I’m not here to save anybody, but just to connect as a human being.  I can make a difference in all sorts of ways like being a good daughter, friend, wife, and aunt.  I have a spark that has always been there and I’ve found it here just being myself.