Ex-Krispy Kreme Exec Takes Helm of Breadsmith


Milwaukee-Albert Hasse has turned his passion for hot glazed doughnuts into a love of fresh-baked bread. The former vice president of franchise operations for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. has taken the reins of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin-based Breadsmith Franchising Inc., an eight-year-old company with 41 specialty bread stores across the country. Each of the franchise locations, which are owner-operated, bake specialty breads, muffins and pastries.

Hasse, 36, replaces Breadsmith's founder, Dan Sterling, as president. Hasse is now in charge of the company's daily operations and franchise development, a job that will determine the growth of the company. Sterling, 44, will actively participate in strategic planning for the company as chairman and majority stockholder.

"It had gotten to the point where it would really benefit us to have an experienced outside person run the company," Sterling says. "I'm a great early-stage entrepreneur, but I looked at my skill sets and decided it would be best to bring in an industry veteran."

A Breadsmith employee who knew Hasse suggested that Sterling recruit him for the position. "It was just a really good fit for both of us," Sterling says. "I think it's a real coup for Breadsmith to get someone of Albert's caliber from a hot company like Krispy Kreme."

As president of Breadsmith, Hasse brings what he learned from his years at Krispy Kreme, a fast-growing chain of doughnut shops that's developed a cult-like following. The stores are known for their fresh-from-the-fryer doughnuts available whenever their "Hot Doughnuts Now" sign is glowing in the window.

Hasse says Krispy Kreme changed the way most people think about doughnuts. No longer the stale pastries served at breakfast meetings, people now crave hot doughnuts and even work the treat into their daily commutes. Hasse hopes to turn heads for Breadsmith, too.

"Once you taste the fresh product, you never want to go back to what you were used to," Hasse says. "We're on a mission to show people there's a truly great experience they can have with bread."

Breadsmith completed strategic planning meetings in July. Subjects included future expansion and long-term goals. "We're going to focus on strengthening the foundation of the brand," Hasse says. "That's our first step, then we'd like to begin a conservative expansion."

Because Breadsmith's market is so narrow, it will take time and precision to plan expansion. The majority of the company's stores are in the Midwest, with a few scattered throughout the East Coast, California and Texas. Hasse has some new markets in mind, but he'll let the research speak for itself, he says.

Hasse also hopes to lead new product development at the stores. While the company will keep its focus on specialty breads and fresh-baked sweets, he would like to see more products baked fresh throughout the day to appeal to commuters going to and from work. That would increase business in the evening hours, when customers begin to taper off.

"I don't feel we're maximizing the potential of what we can offer," he says. "If people know we'll have hot, fresh bread ready for them on their way home from work, we can have a lot more customers stopping in at that time of the day."

Despite Hasse's past experience, Breadsmith's new products won't include hot doughnuts. "We'll leave the doughnuts to Krispy Kreme, and Krispy Kreme will leave the bread to us," he says. -Milwaukee Business Journal