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New bread store plans to bake up business in Victoria


June 17, 2013 at 1:17 a.m.
Updated June 18, 2013 at 1:18 a.m.

Baked loaves of squaw bread, a dark rye variety, sit inside a House of Bread store. Tom Fitzwilliam, who owns the incoming House of Bread franchise in Victoria, said the bread is one of his favorites the company makes.

The building suite at 6304 N. Navarro St. doesn't look like much yet.

Large holes perforate the dusty floor to make way for sewer pipes, while the clacks and clangs of progress fill the echoing space.

Still, one larger-than-life mixer hints at the site's future.

House of Bread, a California-based bakery, will soon call Victoria home, said Tom Fitzwilliam, who owns the Victoria franchise. The business will serve 24 breads, baked fresh daily, along with a variety of sandwiches, cookies, brownies and more.

"There's nothing like this in Victoria," he said, noting Victoria marks the company's ninth location. "I'm really excited."

The food business is nothing new to Fitzwilliam, a Pittsburgh, Pa., native.

He got his start in high school with a job at McDonald's, he said, and spent 17 years with the company. Later came culinary school - he attended what was then called the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary arts - before a 22-year stint with Red Lobster.

After retiring in September, he knew it was time to strike out on his own.

He began the search for franchises online, scoping out pizza places and the like. House of Bread caught his eye, but it was a visit to the company's San Luis Obispo, Calif., corporate headquarters that sealed the deal.

"Four out of five people who walked by just stopped where they were to smell the bread," he said, smiling. "And it's just a fresh, great-tasting product."

The company's offerings range from jalapeno jack bread to chocolate zucchini, on to focaccia pesto feta and more. And it's all made with healthy ingredients - no preservatives, honey instead of sugar and so on.

"Even though it tastes great, it's still healthy for you," he said.

Bloomington resident Charles King said he used to shop at Mrs Baird's Bakery and misses the breads and sweets the business offered up. He said he plans to stop in the bakery once it opens and see what it has.

"I think it's a good idea," the retired plant worker said. "I'll go out that way."

For Victoria construction worker Ryan Akin, the bakery is a nice addition but not necessarily one he'll frequent.

"I'm kind of old-fashioned," he said. "Once I find a place I like, that's where I go. I don't really go anywhere else."

Still, Akin said, a new business means good things for the city.

Not only will it bring more variety to those in town, but it also keeps up competition.

That means good-quality food, he said, and hopefully, better prices.

"The more there is, the better it is," he said.

Looking ahead, Fitzwilliam still has his work cut out for him.

Construction continues on the building, for instance, and the company plans to hire 15 to 20 employees before opening in what he says he hopes will be mid- to late August.

Regardless, Fitzwilliam says he looks forward to this next chapter in life.

"We're getting great feedback from people talking about how excited they are to see us open," he said. "I think it'll be good."



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