Local News

Slow Economy Not Bringing In The 'Dough' To Durham Bakery

Posted January 30, 2002 12:21 p.m. EST

— The slow economy is trickling down to the choices you have at the grocery store. Even a local bread maker is feeling the pinch. The dough is slow to rise at the Ninth Street Bakery in Durham.

The Ninth Street Bakery has a 22-year history in Durham and a "flour-y" reputation. Its bread is made with primarily organic flour, no preservatives.

"[It's] part of your local community where you can go buy day-old bread at a deal," customer Lee Folger said.

Customers walk in and buy bread by the loaf or sit and stay for lunch, but 85 percent of the bakery's operation is geared for wholesale sales to grocery chains. The bakery's largest client was Harris Teeter, but not anymore.

"We had serviced them since 1983, about 20 years, and they gave us a day's notice to get out of their store," Frank Ferrell said.

Ferrell, chief executive officer of the Ninth Street Bakery, said Harris Teeter makes more profit from frozen dough shipped in from California and baked in their stores. As a result, the chain terminated its contract with Ninth Street, leaving the bakery with 40 percent less business, a difficult adjustment any way you slice it.

"We did let one person go. The other way it's been felt is people's hours are down," he said.

Ferrell is looking to pick up sales elsewhere, but when consumers have fewer dollars to spend, he realizes they may opt for lower-quality bread.

"We're a little more higher-end bread. It's a little more expensive than our competitors," he said.

Ferrell is cutting prices, but he does not want to cut any more staff. He has faith that quality will win out in the end.

"We are going to weather the storm and stay together and increase our sales," he said.

Ferrell said his bakery helped revitalize Durham's Ninth Street shopping district 22 years ago. In 1992, he moved the operation downtown to the corner of Main and East Chapel Hill streets.