Budi Januar typically starts his days making bread to sell at his Hilliard bakery around 5 a.m.—before the sun rises.
But since the stay-at-home order was issued in March, he’s been waking up even earlier to begin the five-hour process, all so he can bake an additional 70 loaves each week that he can give away to those in need. It’s worth it to lose a little more shut-eye, he said, so that they can enjoy something that’s as fresh as possible.
“Sometimes it’s a challenge,” said Januar, 42. “We just want to make sure everything is up to our quality standards.”
Januar owns the Great Harvest Bread Co. in Hilliard with his wife, Fan Ny, 38. Since March 27, they have made weekly bread donations to various local organizations, including Lutheran Social Services’ Faith Mission and food pantries run by CHOICES for Victims of Domestic Violence and Vineyard Columbus. In April, they also began a weekly meal donation program to show appreciation for first responders and other essential workers.
By mid-June, they had donated nearly 500 loaves of their honey whole-wheat bread.
Mollie Vrable, volunteer services manager at Faith Mission, remembers being able to smell the bread when she picked up a donation in early April.
“The loaves were so fresh that they were still warm when I got in my car,” Vrable said.
Faith Mission is one of the largest homeless shelters in central Ohio. It provides three meals each day for residents, but due to the pandemic, some of its regular meal providers had to back out. The donation from Januar and Ny was used to make turkey BLT sandwiches for residents, Vrable said.
“(The couple) responded to the call to help their neighbors in need,” Vrable said. “They saw the need, found a way they could help and followed through.”
Both Januar and Ny moved to Columbus from Indonesia 25 years ago and attended Ohio State University. Januar went on to study at the California Culinary Academy, and Ny got her master’s degree in nursing at Ohio State. They got married in 2017 and have a 4-year-old daughter.
They first encountered Great Harvest Bread Co. during a visit to Salt Lake City in 2013 and were inspired by the company, whose mission statement exhorts people to “give generously to others.” They bought a franchise and opened their store in Hilliard in June 2019.
“We’ve been blessed, so we like to turn it into another blessing to other people,” Ny said.
Part bakery and part cafe, the store was closed temporarily to dine-in customers back in March as the pandemic spread in central Ohio, only fulfilling carry-out and delivery orders. It has since been able to open again with limited seating.
Though business still isn’t what it used to be, the couple said they’re happy to do what they can to help other organizations.
“Even though sales are down, we’re still able to operate as usual,” Ny said. “Doing the bread donations, even though we don’t get anything for us, we get the rewarding feeling that we made a difference in someone else’s life.”
Donations are funded in part by customers, who can pay $3 per loaf; the store covers the other half of the cost. One person donated $200 at once.
“We get pretty generous customers,” Januar said.
The couple plans to continue donating bread until the crisis is over. They don’t know when that will be, but that’s OK with Januar, who said giving back is part of what he loves about his job.
“There’s a joy when you can bless people,” Januar said. “It’s not about yourself anymore. If you’re working only for the sake of getting money for yourself, one day you’re going to burn out. But the joy from giving blessings to other people is never-ending.”