Gary Gardner serves more than his business
| Harold Gardner presents an NAFD award to his son, Gary. |
Founded in 1924 by Gary’s great uncle, B.H. Gardner Co. began as many bakery distributors did–by distributing bags of flour to retail bakeries. Gary’s father, Harold, began working in the family business in the mid 40s after serving in World War II and purchased the company in 1957. Gary joined the company in 1970 after graduating from Indiana University and became president of B.H. Gardner Co. in 1980.
Like many family-run retail bakeries, the Gardners’ distribution business has weathered many changes in the retail bakery and distribution industries through the years. They’ve had to adapt to changes, such as a shrinking number of full-line retail bakeries in their market area, consolidation among bakery supply manufacturers and the logistics of adding frozen products to their distribution mix.
“We’re still a small company, but it has evolved into a full-line bakers’ supply house,” Gary says.
Through all the changes, one factor has remained central to B.H. Gardner’s success during the years–service to their customers, community and trade.
Gary insists his business is not complicated, so his company stays ahead through customer service. The company handles about 300 bakery accounts, and Gardner tries to get to know each one personally. In business for more than 80 years, B.H. Gardner has serviced several generations of bakers.
Seeking peers in the bakery distribution business, Gary joined NAFD, the National Association of Flour Distributors. And, true to his upbringing, Gary did more than simply join. He’s been active in NAFD leadership since joining the association in 1970 and served as president from 1989 to 1991. Gary also is past president and currently involved the Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis, which established a $6 million foundation to help children in need.
“When you run a small company, you don’t have the opportunity to have hundreds of employees working around you, so you look for other ways to expand your horizons and your friendships,” Gardner says.
NAFD honored Gary this year at its annual convention with an award that has been given to only seven other members since the award was established in 1991. The NAFD board presented him the Wilson P. Tanner/Harold G. Gardner Award (named after Gary’s father, an NAFD founder) to honor past or current members of the association for contributions to the organization above and beyond the norm.
Gary says he is humbled by the award and does not put himself in the same category as past award recipients. One past award recipient even made a surprise trip to the convention banquet to present the award.
“It is always an honor to be honored by your peers. I was very surprised,” Gardner says. “And to have my father present it was pretty special.”
Mark Atwood never stops sharing
| Mark Atwood (left) during his tenure as RBA president. |
Three years after opening a small cake shop in 1977, he expanded it into a full-line retail bakery, known for its decorated cakes, candies, pastries and King cakes. The bakery recently moved into a new, larger location.
Atwood’s service to fellow bakers began in earnest when he became president of Retail Bakers of America (RBA) in 2001. His mission as president was to focus on educating bakers by bringing training to them. He tirelessly visited bakeries across the country during his tenure to help show RBA’s renewed focus on its members.
“Mark has been the most awesome contributor, teacher and mentor,” says Jackie Scott, owner of Scott’s Pastry Shoppe in Middleton, Wis., and a past president of RBA. “He gave so thoroughly of his time as president.”
When his tenure as president ended, Atwood’s commitment to his fellow bakers did not. He is currently chairman of the board for the Retail Baking Industry Foundation, a charitable educational and research organization that is dedicated to providing new and established bakers the resources they need to run a profitable bakery.
“Mark was so excited about the foundation, and we are happy to have him. He has the energy the foundation needs,” says Scott, who serves on the Foundation’s board of directors.
The foundation was set up shortly before Sept. 11, 2001. With the events of that date and its aftermath, the foundation had a slow start, Scott says. Pledge money that was to act as the seed money was slow coming in as the bakers who pledged funds focused more on their businesses during the economic downturn.
“Mark has had so much patience, and any money that has been given, he has protected and only spent the interest, which was how the foundation was set up to operate,” Scott adds.
In the aftermath of Katrina, Atwood, acting on behalf of the foundation, became the “go-to guy” to ensure all the donated supplies were funneled to bakeries in most need of them. He also spearheaded a fund raising effort that has raised more than $30,000 to be distributed to bakeries in the storm-ravaged area.
It is not only Atwood’s organizational skills that should be admired, but also his business acumen, Scott says. “He’s so willing to share his business philosophies.”
She recalls him telling a group of bakers that 20 percent of their customers pay 80 percent of their bills, and to stop focusing so much time and energy on the remaining 80 percent of customers.
“If you pick up the phone to talk to him, you have already gained,” Scott adds. “You feel lucky to sspend time with him.”