There’s always a dusting of flour on Samantha Evans’ countertops, and there’s never a time where her house doesn’t smell like freshly baked bread.
Evans is the owner of Mountainaire Sweet Breads, a company that she runs out of her Flagstaff home with the help of her husband. Baking is something that has always been engrained in Evans’ life.
“Baking ran in the family. We didn’t eat out much so it felt natural to be in a kitchen,” said Evans.
Evans grew up in Mountainaire, a small community 10 miles south of Flagstaff. After moving out of her parent’s house to attend Coconino Community College, Evans was reminded of her love for baking. Her roommate’s mom brought over a pumpkin loaf one day, and Evans found it so delicious that she asked for the recipe.
Weeks later, Evans was in the kitchen, baking her own pumpkin bread, which she began selling at Mountainaire Tavern, the restaurant where she bartended a few days a week. Some of her customers at the tavern started asking for more variety such as zucchini and banana bread, which gave her the opportunity to explore in the kitchen to develop new flavors.
A year later, Evans married and gave birth to her daughter. She was looking for a way to make a steady income without leaving her home, and she instantly remembered the bread she used to sell at the tavern and thought to develop a sweet bread company.
Her husband helped with finalizing the business, and when they were finished, they were left with Mountainaire Sweet Breads. Evans started baking and taking samples of her sweet bread to local Flagstaff businesses. Now, over 11 businesses sell her bread. She said she feels privileged that her business has done so well in such a short amount of time.
Evans spends anywhere from four to 10 hours a day baking six days a week. Sundays are some of her busiest days because most businesses request that their orders be delivered on Monday mornings. On even the busiest of days, Evans can bake nine loaves an hour, thanks to her three ovens.
Most of Evans’ sales come from local businesses, but there are also individuals who order her sweet bread off of her website. Those customers will get their bread within a day or two of ordering it. Evans’ bread is baked fresh; baking days in advance and freezing her bread is never an option.
Because Evans is a big believer in freshly baked goods and because she likes working alone to keep her business small, it’s challenging for her to find time to spend with family. If it’s a beautiful day outside, instead of going on a walk, Evans will oftentimes be left inside baking.
Although running Mountainaire Sweet Breads is grueling at times, Evans can’t think of a more rewarding job.
“I bake with love and I take pride in what I do. I know I have a good product,” Evans said.
Shawn Reed is a Flagstaff resident who knows that Evans has a good product. Reed is the owner and founder of Wicked AZ Coffee, which he established in 2001. Reed moved from Grant Pass, Oregon to Flagstaff and soon realized that there were no drive-through coffee joints in Flagstaff.
Reed was inspired to start his own coffee company with the intention of keeping it local and keeping Flagstaff as the center. Reed blended his own roast and set up business. Now, he oversees three Wicked AZ locations: west side, downtown and east side, which are all on Route 66.
At the time that Reed was just starting out with his east side location, he started developing a friendship with Evans. She was a regular customer of his and he frequently saw her at Salsa Brava, where she worked as a server.
Reed was the first Flagstaff business owner to try Evan’s’bread, and he instantly knew he wanted to sell it at his coffee establishment. Now, Wicked AZ is Evans’ biggest supporter: Reed purchases anywhere from 40-60 loaves every two weeks for his three establishments. Reed is especially grateful for Evans, someone who knows the benefit of keeping it local.
“Anybody can get commercialized products. There’s nothing special about that,” said Reed.
Not only does Reed recognize the importance of staying local, but so do his customers. When Reed sold commercialized products at Wicked AZ, his customers didn’t say much about those items. After he started selling Mountainaire Sweet Breads, he noticed that his customers become more enthusiastic about the product.
“They’re pretty fanatic about her bread,” Reed said.
Above all, Reed said he is grateful to be in partnership with Evans, a local business owner like himself. He recognizes that people in Flagstaff pick up on his local approach that sets him apart from coffee chains.
Brian Yoskovich is another Flagstaff business owner who prides himself on keeping it local like Reed. Yoskovich is one of the owners of the Flagstaff Farmers Market, a family-owned grocery store that has been in Yoskovich’s family for 19 years. The market is located on 4th Street and has been a part of the Flagstaff community for the past 40 years.
To keep the products in the store local, Yoskovich drives around the state to pick up produce from farms that he will later sell in the market. Most of the time, he’s on the road four times a week not only to local farms, but also to the Grand Canyon and the community of Tucson, where the Yoskovich family also oversees the produce in those grocery stores. Because of the family’s grocery business at the Grand Canyon, they have gotten many calls from customers from other countries who have reached out to thank the family personally for selling local products.
Yoskovich tried Mountainaire Sweet Bread about three years ago, and he’s been selling Evans’ bread at the market ever since. Her bread is even sold at the Grand Canyon in the stores the Yoskovich family also oversees.
Evans uses the market’s produce to make her breads. Yoskovich is thankful that Evans is willing to do what it takes to provide customers with truly local products.
Yoskovich explained that Evans’ bread as well as the other products he sells at the market go well together. Many customers realize that the two compliment each other well and oftentimes come by early in the morning for the market’s coffee and for Evans’ bread.
Over the years, Yoskovich has come to realize that the relationship the two have is more of a friendship than a business transaction.
“Not only does she have a great product, she’s also a great person,” Yoskovich said.
It’s business owners like Evans, Reed and Yoskovich who are making Flagstaff a unique place for customers to experience local products, the best products that Flagstaff has to offer.