The rumor provoked immediate interest: A former Dillard’s employee had bought Community Bakery, a Little Rock institution.
Joe Fox, Community Bakery’s owner, laughed. No, he said, he hasn’t sold the bakery, at 1200 Main St., but he has brought on a partner, John Brandenberger, who Fox hopes will be his successor. Brandenberger lives in the neighborhood and was previously store manager for Dillard’s at Park Plaza.
“He’s acquiring an ownership position as a partner,” Fox said of Brandenberger, now the bakery’s chief operating officer. “And we’ll see where it goes.”
“I’ve been trying to identify a successor for a long time,” Fox said. “And I hope he’ll be that person and I think that’s what he hopes as well.”
Brandenberger’s wife, Julie, is the daughter of Little Rock architect John Jarrard and his wife, Anne, long-time Quapaw Quarter residents. Julie’s “dad used to ride bikes with her here to the bakery when she was a kid, and that was before I bought it — and I bought it 35 years ago, so that was a while ago,” Fox said.
Brandenberger “is “very conscious of building the brand,” Fox said. “I think it’s time for new energy, new blood, and I’m enjoying working with him.”
It’s hard to envision Community Bakery before Fox bought it in 1983, but he’s actually the third owner. Ralph Hinson started the bakery in 1947 in the Rose City neighborhood of North Little Rock and sold it to Agnes Bargiel, the bakery’s chief cake decorator, in the late 1970s. Fox bought it from her.
The bakery moved from North Little Rock to a site near 14th and Main streets in 1952. Community Bakery moved to the renovated Cohn Building at 12th and Main in 1993.
Although Fox owns 90 percent of the bakery, 20 employees own fractions of stock in the enterprise.
In addition to Brandenberger, Community Bakery has a new general manager, Tammy Ward, who started at the first of the year. “So between John and Tammy, I’m looking forward to them kind of steering and keeping the whole thing going,” Fox said. “It’s going to take some time for me to get to where I have some free time, which I don’t right now. But that’s my goal.”