Ground Floor: Couple promotes fresh, natural lifestyle with Cedar Rapids bakery

Bakery items change daily, day-old pastries,loaves donated to area charities

From left, Abby Leonard of Cedar Rapids, Tom Schmitt of Cedar Rapids, owner Dion Williams of Cedar Rapids, Kaylin Emery
From left, Abby Leonard of Cedar Rapids, Tom Schmitt of Cedar Rapids, owner Dion Williams of Cedar Rapids, Kaylin Emery of Marion and Sarah Speicher of Cedar Rapids form loaves of Dakota bread, a whole wheat bread with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, millet and sesame seeds at Great Harvest Bread Co. in Cedar Rapids. Wheat is milled every day to make fresh flour for use in the bakery's goods. Williams and his wife, Laurel, opened the bakery this fall. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Dion and Laurel Williams had daydreamed for years about running a business together before opening a Great Harvest bakery in October.

With his culinary talents and food service management background and her front of house skills, the college sweethearts always envisioned a business in the food service industry. But a restaurant wasn’t an option; they didn’t want that kind of time commitment while raising their family.

“We were casting about for the right kind of business and a friend suggested Great Harvest Bread Co.,” Laurel said. “We didn’t know anything about it and hadn’t considered a franchise but we looked into it.”

They found a company philosophy that matched their personal values.

Great Harvest Bread was founded by a Montana couple more than 30 years ago. The bakery specializes in whole grain products made from fresh ground flour with no preservatives, additives or dough conditioners.

“Our honey whole wheat bread is made with five ingredients – flour, honey, water, salt and yeast,” Laurel said. “There is nothing unpronounceable and no chemicals.

"We already personally had committed to bring a fresh, no-chemical lifestyle to our kids. Now we are bringing it to our business.”

Dion and Laurel also liked the flexibility Great Harvest Bread provides to franchise owners.

“We can make our bakery look exactly how we want it to look,” Laurel said, noting that the few franchise requirements include milling fresh flour daily and not selling day-old bread.

“We choose our own menus,” Dion added. “We have full access to hundreds of recipes.”

Bakery menu items include the signature honey whole wheat bread plus a variety of specialty loaves like cinnamon chip, cheddar garlic, and Dakota. The bakery also features a large sweets menu of scones, muffins and cookies, sandwiches made with natural deli meats with no artificial ingredients or fillers, fair trade coffee and a unique loose tea menu.

Menu items change daily.

Dion and Laurel are committed to making the bakery as environmentally friendly as possible. They use cloth napkins and ceramic mugs to limit disposables, use recyclable paper products to package food to go, and wash their own aprons and rags to limit the general chemical process.

The couple also are committed to a concept of generosity. They donate day-old bread to local charities, provide their 15 employees with an ample benefit package, and give visitors to the bakery slices of warm bread with butter.

“Our goal is to create a fun and inviting atmosphere, and offer customers fresh, great tasting whole grain breads and sweets,” Dion said.

At a glance

  • Owners: Dion and Laurel Williams
  • Business: Great Harvest Bread Co.
  • Address: 5070 Lindale Dr. NE, Cedar Rapids
  • Email:
  • Phone: (319) 826-6357
  • Website:

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