It’s not surprising Scott Baker became a baker, and that heritage is reflected in the name of his business, 5 Generation Bakers.
“That’s how I got the 5 Generation Bakers, it’s a literal term,” he says. “I am the fifth generation of my family in the business that we can trace.”
His great-great grandfather, who emigrated from Germany as a teen, not only started a bakery, he changed his name from “Becker” to “Baker” to sound more American.
In the 1930s, a cousin of his grandfather started Jenny Lee Bakery, which became a Pittsburgh icon with 14 retail locations. Times changed, though, as it grew harder for local bakeries to exist.
In 2006, a major fire at Jenny Lee shut the company down for five months and it was never able to fully recover, Baker says. Even though Jenny Lee shut its doors in 2008, Baker still uses the name “Jenny Lee” on 5 Generation Bakers’ products.
“We do use the Jenny Lee brand name. I recognized it was too valuable of an asset to just leave on the sidelines,” Baker says.
The gourmet cinnamon swirl breads that 5 Generation Bakers produces isn’t something Jenny Lee was known for, but Baker thought it was an unmet need in the industry.
“Obviously I took a risk, because if you’re not seeing it commercially maybe it’s because nobody wants it,” he says. “But my gamble was that it’s just because it was a difficult product to manufacture efficiently.
“And we figured that out, and here we are six years later continuing to grow and just completing a $4.5 million construction project, so I think the risk was confirmed as a good one,” Baker says.
That construction project, which took 30 months to complete, puts 5 Generation Bakers and its 50 employees in a position to grow. The new facility is three times larger, and Baker expects to get close to 100 employees by the end of 2018.
Take the leap
Baker’s business broke even in its third year and generated a profit in years four and five, which is close to what he expected. The problem was the growth brought the company close to its capacity.
When it became apparent the business had to expand, Baker knew he wanted to stay in McKees Rocks. He didn’t want to lose trained employees and the family had been involved in that community for many years. New construction wasn’t an option, so Baker looked at renovating an existing building.
“Unfortunately, the majority of the properties that we looked at in McKees Rocks were either too big, too small, too old, too, you know, just not just suitable for food manufacturing,” he says.
Then in April 2015, the Bottom Dollar Food supermarket building became available, which was a game changer.