By SAM HATCHER
I would suspect it has been difficult this week for the Bay family to return to work after the passing last week of the family patriarch and founder of Bay’s Southern Bread, Inc., Charles (Charlie) Bay.
Many of you know the Bay story. If you don’t, it is truly a story book symbol of the “American Dream.”
Mr. and Mrs. Bay started their family owned business in their home. She was known for making some fabulous sourdough bread that, until their business was started, was shared only with family and friends.
At the time when the bakery enterprise idea was initiated, Mr. Bay was an account representative with the Kenneth O. Lester Company, a principle supplier to Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc.
So the story goes, and I have heard him tell it himself, he was invited to bring a sampling of his wife’s bread over to Cracker Barrel for a taste test by Dan Evins, a founder of the restaurant chain and former CEO and chairman. Mr. Evins liked the bread and he liked Mr. Bay. Mr. Evins asked if the Bays would be willing to transform their home kitchen into a test kitchen to see if the recipe used to make the few test loaves could be adjusted to mass produce the bread. Getting a positive response from Mr. Bay, Cracker Barrel moved forward to help them set up a test kitchen in their home.
Mr. Bay in a very lighthearted, humorous way told the Lebanon Noon Rotary just more than a year ago that he and his wife for several weeks did nothing but bake sourdough bread in their home-style commercial kitchen.
The test project was successful and as they say the rest is history.
Bay’s Southern Bread, founded in 1985, now supplies all 582 Cracker Barrel restaurants with sourdough bread, made right here in Lebanon, Tennessee.
This is a story worth telling over and over again. And one for which the entire Bay family can be proud.
But there’s more to the Charlie Bay story.
He was not only a successful and hard working business man, he was also a very good and sincere person.
He offered much from which we all can learn.
He based a great deal of his financial and business success on his faith and belief in God and publicly said so.
He gave back to the local community in a number of ways and was generous in providing financial support for a number of causes including not the least of which was Friendship Christian School.
There won’t be many to come our way like Charlie Bay. He will be sorely missed.