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Don Guerra, Barrio Bread Tucson, Arizona and Gilbert, Arizona at Hayden Flour Mills

04/11/2024 2:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Barrio Bread founder Don Guerra was raised in the Phoenix area and says he grew up baking with his mother. The 2022 James Beard Foundation Outstanding Baker award-winner spoke to the Guild recently about starting Barrio Bread out of his garage in 2009. Barrio Bread is named for the community where Guerra lived in Tucson, Barrio Del Este. 

"When I started my garage bakery, it was truly a community bakery," Guerra said. "That name embodies what I'm trying to achieve as a baker and bakery owner, I want to take care of my community." 

In the 1990s, Guerra opened the Village Baker in Flagstaff, Arizona, and a second location in Ashland, Oregon. He was living in Ashland when he decided to sell the company and return to Tuscon, to attend the University of Arizona for the second time (first time he studied Anthropology).  

"I wasn't prepared to manage that large of a staff and that big of a company," Guerra said. "I went back to school to study education because I thought that would prepare me for bakery ownership in the future." 

After years working in education, he returned to baking again in 2009. When he did, he put the lessons of education into practice at his bakery. 

"My bakery is about recruiting and retaining staff," Guerra said. "How do I do that? I need to draw on the lessons and training I received from the College of Education." 

Asked who his mentors or bakery heroes are, Guerra named Dan Leader, of Bread Alone. Back in the 1990s, Guerra says he wrote Leader a letter, bought a plane ticket, and showed up at the backdoor of Leader's bakery one day hoping to learn.  

"He answered the door,and I smelled the wood fire and bread baking, and he let me in," Guerra said. "He is a legend for what he's done for bread in America." 

He also names Steve Sullivan at Acme Bread, Joe Ortiz (The Village Baker,) and Mike Zakowski at the Bejkr, as significant influences on his baking. 

After years of baking and owning bakeries, he said he's found the most success comes from connecting with his local community. 

"You can have a really awesome product, but if you're not engaging your community, if you don't have transparency, if you don't value them, you will have surplus product at the end of the day," Guerra said.  

Barrio Bread opened its latest iteration inside the Hayden Flour Mills kitchen in Gilbert, Arizona. Guerra is enjoying the Gilbert setup, which was designed to mirror his garage bakery where Barrio all began. It also allows him another venue to interface and connect with his neighbors. 

"More consumers are demanding to know where their ingredients are coming from, and they want to know who the producers are," Guerra said. "When they get an opportunity to shake hands with a producer, it's such a win. They feel connected to what you are doing. They're part of your success. They feel that." 

Learn more about Don and Barrio Bread below.

Locations: Barrio Bread, 18 S. Eastbourne Ave., Tucson, Arizona 85716 

Barrio Bread at Hayden Flour Mills, 932 N. Colorado St., Gilbert, Arizona 85233 




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