Fresh bread bakeries are a rarity in Dallas these days. Just ask the proprietors of Great Harvest Bread Company, Jim and Cheryl Klinkhamer.

After living near Chicago for quite some time, it wasn’t long before the transplanted Dallasites noticed a lack of such shops.

“Coming from the Chicago area, I used to see bakeries on every corner,” says Jim. “There would be all kinds. A sweets bakery, a cake bakery and a bread bakery. Here in Dallas, we have to ‘breaducate’ some of our newer customers because they’re not used to fresh bread. But that’s started to change because of some of the other stores that have tried to enter the market.

The Klinkhamers are active in a variety of community projects including “Bake for the Lake,” which helps support White Rock Lake. Last year, over 1200 loaves of bread and 1700 cookies were sold in one day to enable park improvements. To date, the event has funded 24 benches with bike racks, 10 recycling receptacles, a water fountain and a Lake marquee.

On Sunday, Sept. 26, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., volunteers from the group “For the Love of the Lake” (FTLOTL) will bake and sell loaves of harvest white, honey whole wheat, cinnamon raisin and Texas herb bread — not to forget the luscious chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

FTLOTL Coordinator Marci Winter remembers meeting the Klinkhamers four years ago when her group was gearing up for its first fundraising concert. “The day before, Jim called wanting to donate bread to the concert. I thought … ‘bread’?” she laughs. “I guess he sensed my hesitation because he told me to ‘trust him on this — it’s not like regular bread out of a bag.’ What can I say? We served it at intermission and people just went nuts. He was right.”

This will be the fourth year for “Bake for the Lake,” held at the bakery in Snider Plaza. In all, the community service is just a way repaying the city that both Klinkhamers call home.

“Home” is an important concept inside the walls of the store also. Although Great Harvest is a national franchise, it promotes individuality within each location and gives the managers creative freedom in running their stores. The Klinkhamer’s premiere store (another recently opened in Richardson) plays upbeat music, has flowers painted on the windows, and a model windmill sits in the middle of the shop. There’s also a kiddie section complete with a Lego, a play table and children’s books.

Kids make up a good portion of Great Harvest’s clientele. Outside of having a special place to hang out while mom does the bread shopping, boys and girls are often treated with tours of the shop. These tours are usually conducted for elementary school classes and, according to Jim, everyone seems to have a great time learning the bread baking process.

“ We do about three to four school tours a month,” he says. “It’s a unique experience for kids. They get to feel the flour, knead bread and actually see it being baked. Then, they get to come back and pick up the bread that they made.”

Aside from the friendly rapport with youngsters and a fun store atmosphere, the Klinkhamers like to let the bread do the talking for Great Harvest. Both insist that theirs is a superior product. If you don’t believe them,  customers are free to sample fresh slices that are available on the store’s large bread board.

“When you walk into our store, there’s always hot, fresh bread on the board with butter and honey next to it,” says Cheryl.

“That’s what makes us different than most bakeries,” adds Jim. “When you walk in, you’re almost immediately drawn to it.”

Neither Jim nor Cheryl set out to be in the bread business. Jim once ran a painting business while earning an MBA from Eastern Illinois University. On the other hand, Cheryl’s initial career plans centered upon microbiology.

Although a bakery wasn’t among their respective career goals, both have fallen in love with the lifestyle it provides for them.

“I love it,” says Jim. “We work hard and have the freedom to be with each other and our kids every day. I usually get to the bakery around four in the morning and there’s something therapeutic about that. Then, I’m able to leave around 11 and spend the rest of the day with my family.

“We’re also driven by the response from our customers. They love our product and the atmosphere we provide. Good customers and being with my family, I can’t think of a more perfect environment to work in.”