Story last updated at 1:34 p.m. Thursday, April 18, 2002

Bakery celebrates 20 years of 'flour power'
by R.J. Kelly
Managing Editor

photo: business
  Photo by R. J. Kelly, Homer News
Kevin and Donna Maltz run Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Cafe.  
When Donna Goodman and her then-partner John Hammer rolled into Homer the day after her 25th birthday in May 1982 in an aging bread truck and with 43 bucks in cash, the itinerant organic baker blended into the hippieish counter-culture feeling of this "cosmic hamlet" by the bay. Twenty years later, Donna Maltz, the successful businesswoman and entrepreneur, is clearly part of - dare we say it - the establishment.

While remaining true to their commitment to wholesome foods, Donna and her husband, Kevin Maltz, have grown Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Cafe from the bread truck to a thriving 50-seat restaurant set to reopen for their 20th season Monday after completing a total renovation of their complex at 1316 Ocean Drive.

While there have been several lesser renovations over the last two decades, Donna's growing fascination with creating new sidelines and businesses has risen steadily, like bread prodded by the spark of living yeast.

"I love business," she said as she stopped by the work site on one of her constant errands. "I'm a very yeasted person most of the time," she said, referring to her energy level and interest in growing businesses.

Under the supervision of general contractor Scott Luchaco & Sons and the watchful eyes of Kevin, the 3,000-square-foot bakery and restaurant has been revamped over the winter with a new roof, new tile floors, a more efficent working area, new siding, realigned bakery and kitchen, new restrooms and more.

Falling back on the history of their first 10 years in Homer, when former local residents like a 12-year-old Jewel stopped by to sing occasionally or Tom Bodett read from his End of the Road writings, the Maltzes plan to decorate with photographs and memorabilia from those days.

But it's not just nostalgia, Donna is pushing - it's a lesson in entrepreneurial fervor.

After graduating from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., with degree in "social ecology," Donna said she knew a lot about sociology and people relationships, but nothing about business. She grew some of those skills as she operated a truck farm near Olympia raising organic vegetables and herbs to sell at farmers markets.

"It's the coolest thing," she said. "When we drove up the Alcan Highway ... we literally had to bake our way up, six loaves at a time" to raise gas money.

With a little luck, hard work and a $5,000 loan from her father in New Jersey, Fresh Sourdough Express was successful enough to land a cover story in the Anchorage Daily News "We Alaskans" magazine in October 1982 - just five months after the little bread truck rolled into town.

"When we started, we were known as the hippie granola people," Donna said. But soon she began branching out to market private label baking mixes and cocoa under the Ah!laska name to sell around the state.

"But everybody needs to know, you just need tenacity and a work ethic," she said. "I want to encourage other entrepreneurs."

California-bred Kevin said he came on board as a baker in 1984 after a stint in Kodiak as a summer fish counter. In 1988 he and Donna married. Donna's internal yeast keep growing businesses. She's published a couple of children's recipe and fun books and is now planning a more serious book tentatively titled "Recipe for Your Life" to blend what she's learned about food and human relationships.

Donna sold the Ah!laska business about two years ago and said she is now developing a business consulting firm with some clients in Hawaii. Among her plans are marketing a taro-root baby food product and an organic insect repellent.

Last year, she and Kevin opened "A Memorable Experience," a bed and breakfast operation on the hillside.

Kevin is now leading the restaurant effort, Donna said, as she shifts her focus to creating other business opportunities.

"My passion is to create new things and design new things."

To celebrate their 20th year and inaugurate their renovated restaurant and bakery, they are hosting the Homer Chamber of Commerce's mixer on April 26.