Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 3:30 PM on Wednesday, July 4, 2012

30 years of success

Fresh Sourdough Express owners, fans celebrate milestone in life of longtime Homer business

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Donna and Kevin Maltz celebrate 30 years as owners of Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Cafe at a Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center mixer on June 28.

"Party of the summer" was how the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center advertised the monthly mixer held last week at Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Café, a 30-year Homer business owned by Donna and Kevin Maltz. Judging by the delicious refreshments, socially responsible emphasis and testimonial- giving crowd, the description hit the bull's eye.

Tables were covered with samples of foods for which the bakery and café has become known. There were wines provided by Homer's Bear Creek Winery, owned by Bill and Dorothy Fry. Live music performed by Homer musician Anna Kilcher provided a soft backdrop to conversation among the standing-room-only gathering.

Individuals wearing tie-dye patterned T-shirts identifying them as former employees described support from Donna and Kevin to survive personally challenging times. Some recalled friendships made at the bakery and cafe. Others talked about milestones in their lives celebrated with Fresh Sourdough Express meals. Many chronicled not just their employment, but also their children's employment for Donna and Kevin.

"It brought out so much emotion from people for their own lives, to reflect on the past 30 years," said Donna, who came to Homer and opened Fresh Sourdough Express at the age of 25. She arrived with $43, a social ecology degree from Evergreen State College in Washington and the dream of building a business based on local and organic products that minimized waste and served the surrounding area. The bread truck Donna drove to Homer is parked in front of her dream-come-true business.

Two years after arriving in Homer, Donna married Kevin and the two continued to build the business, as well as Memorable Experience Bed and Breakfast and the Ah!Alaska line of organic chocolate products, upon the foundation of their shared values.

In 2010, the couple received the Small Business Administration's Alaska Small Business Owners of the Year Award.

"This confirms that being a socially responsible business pays off," Donna said at the time of the couple's commitment to minimize "the carbon footprint of a wasteful food service industry, while remaining profitable."

Now, the couple is ready for a change. Donna and Kevin have already sold Ah!Alaska, their bed and breakfast is for sale and in October the paperwork will be signed making Kathy Kysar the new owner of Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Café.


Kathy Kysar is the new owner of Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Café.

"We're young and healthy and want to do other things with our lives," said Donna.

Through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, Donna has become a nutritional and lifestyle coach. She and Kevin have opened the Culinary Healing Arts Retreat located on a three-acre farmstead in Hawi, a community on Hawaii's big island.

"It's a place for people to come relax, rejuvenate and rejoice in their lives, and do it in a very healthy way," said Donna, who also is completing on a book to be published in 2012. "It's 'A Recipe for Your Life,' a book about changing and transformation and finding a life recipe that works."

Finding Kysar, someone who shares Donna and Kevin's philosophy for success, is helping the couple transition into this new chapter of their lives.

"The thing we did first, other than serve local, healthy, organic food, was mentoring people, giving a work environment where they had greater purpose rather than just a job," said Donna. "That's why I said during the chamber mixer that it was so refreshing to finally find someone like Kathy that embraced that first and foremost."

The Maltz's business-development philosophy isn't the only thing Kysar shares.

"I love to bake, I love to cook and I love to serve people," said Kysar, a former teacher. After 14 years as a single mom, Kysar, whose youngest daughter graduated from high school this year, had been wondering what the future held. Buying Fresh Sourdough Express provided the answer.

"All of a sudden, this was the right time to do this. This was how I was going to take care of people. This was how I could still have everybody over to my house for dinner and be around teenagers, which is what I love to do."

Kevin, Donna and Kathy discovered they shared the same passion and priorities.

"Their most important thing, I believe, was having someone take over the business who could make it successful and wouldn't change it too much, would keep it organic and environmentally friendly," said Kysar. "This is like their child and they needed to marry it off to the right person."

The changes Kysar has in mind and which Donna and Kevin are helping her put in place include developing a line of gluten-free mixes and dairy-free options. Kysar also plans to expand Fresh Sourdough Express' summer-only schedule to a yearround operation.

"I'm excited to work with her for as long as she needs me to coach her, inspire her, give her all the tools and every ounce of information I have and Kevin has," said Donna. "We want to bring all that forward for Kathy. We're not holding back anything."

Kysar intends to make the most of their offer of support, building on Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Cafe 30 years of success.

"It wasn't about the money, although (Donna and Kevin) are doing everything they can to help me be as successful as I can," said Kysar. "It was about the heart. It was about the soul of the business. ... I'm thankful they've given me this chance."

For more about the Culinary Healing Arts Retreat, visit www.culinaryhealingartsregreat.com.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.