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Cassie Wiste rises to the occasion, buys Fargo's Great Harvest Bread bakery

The bake shop is not just a business opportunity, but fills a need for locally-made goods while boosting the southside neighborhood. “I see something special (in the bakery). It’s been around quite some time. You know, it has such a historical significance in the community. That’s really what attracted me to the opportunity,” new owner Cassie Wiste said.

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Cassie Wiste is the new owner of Great Harvest Bread in south Fargo. She said Monday, April 25, 2022, that she was attracted to the bakery for its significance to the community.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

FARGO — The apron has been passed at Great Harvest Bread Co.

New owner, Cassie Wiste, recently took ownership of the bakery from longtime owner Susan Bates.

Wiste learned that the franchise operation was for sale through social media. She sees it not only as a business opportunity, but as a way to rise to the occasion and meet a need in the neighborhood where she and her family live.

“I see something special (in the bakery). It’s been around quite some time. You know, it has such a historical significance in the community. That’s really what attracted me to the opportunity,” Fargo-born Wiste said Monday, April 25. “My son used to drive down here on his bike and get the cookies in the summer.”

The official handover of the franchise bakery at 1522 S. University Drive was April 15.

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“With (a) cup of joy and a dash of sadness we are happy to announce that the passing of the apron has been officially completed,” a recent post to the shop’s Facebook page said. “Thank you Sue for the years of incredible leadership and service here at Fargo's Great Harvest Bread Company. You are forever woven into the rich legacy this store has in the community. Please welcome Cassie as our brave new owner!”

Bates said she expects Wiste and the bakery will thrive together.

“I am absolutely thrilled for Cassie. She is going to be amazing. She’s got some great insight,” Bates said Tuesday, April 26. “She’s got great connections in the community. She’s got the energy. She’s going to do great.”

Baking at the business scale has been a learning experience for Wiste.

“Everyone kind of likes to dabble in baking, but I would say that this is a new challenge for me. That being said, I have a really great staff, who have really great experience. I mean, one of my girls has been here for 18 years. So, I am really just learning from them and leaning on them and their experience,” she said.

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Great Harvest Bread Co. at 1523 S. University Drive, Fargo, was sold to a new owner, Carrie Wiste, on April 15, 2022.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

Wiste also trained for several weeks at Great Harvest’s headquarters in Dillon, Mont., learning how to maintain quality and troubleshoot issues that can crop up in an operation.

When she first looked at the recipes, she saw one for a batch of cookies “that called for 11 pound of butter and 15 pounds of brown sugar. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’”

Another recipe required three gallons of flour.

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“How do you even measure that?” Wiste said. “This kind of baking, you do need a little training.”

However, inheriting an experienced staff made the transition smooth, Wiste said. “I sometimes feel like I’m in their way. They’re just so dialed in. They could come in in their sleep and do it,” she remarked.

Wiste’s resume includes extensive work in development and operations for local companies and non-profits. Her most recent post was working in operations for Fargo’s Spotlight Media. She’s also managed the daily operations for a local “Pride of Dakota” confectionary company, and she’s spent time with Fargo’s Cultural Diversity Resources.

The bakery feeds a couple needs for Wiste as a businesswoman; she likes interacting with people and providing healthy food.

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Cinnamon chip bread, seen Monday, April 25, 2022, is a customer favorite at Fargo's Great Harvest Bread Co.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

“I have just come to the conclusion that I’m really community driven. I miss that working with your vendors, visiting with your customers,” Wiste said. “This opportunity here was more about (a) business opportunity to do more in the community and the neighborhood.”

Great Harvest has a “cafe model,” for its franchises, too. Wiste sees that as a good route for adding another dining option for her neighborhood.

She hopes to swing a deal to rent the adjoining space, knock out the wall, and start her own cafe.

Favorites such as the cinnamon chip bread will stay on the menu, but Wiste is also considering additions. Mother’s Day will see biscotti, King Cakes could pop up for future Mardi Gras celebrations, and look for more savory hamburger buns when grilling season arrives.

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Wiste is the sole owner and her husband is “the fix-it guy.”

“I just want to thank Sue. She’s amazing to work with and she shared her knowledge and experience to make the transition easy,” Wiste said. “She really had a lot to do with keeping the store as the fabric of the community.

“We call it the passing of the apron. So hopefully, I can fill her shoes,” Wiste said.

Great Harvest has been in Fargo 34 years, Bates said. She had taken over as the Southside Center store’s owner in 2005.

“It’s a well-established, amazing business. A little gem,” Bates said.

Bates said she’s going to enjoy some time off, but she won’t be loafing around. She has a trip to Alaska planned and will see a son get married. “Just getting caught back up in life,” Bates explained.

Great Harvest was started in 1976 in Great Falls, Mont. There are more than 200 Great Harvest Bread whole grain bakeries and cafes around the country, including Alaska and Hawaii.

The Fargo Great Harvest store has a presence on both Facebook and Instagram, Wiste said.

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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