Mixing family with business may seem like a flammable version of oil and water to many, but for [this] Tahoe business, the combination has created a welcome place in the Tahoe/Truckee food community. For the Truckee Sourdough Company...the key to finding their niche has been hard work and family leadership.
Truckee Sourdough has been around for nearly 20 years...and lean[s] on artistry and creativity to design a unique and personal product. The [company] recently shared their [story] and family secrets to success.
Truckee Sourdough Company
Truckee Sourdough Company began in 1995 with owners Keith and Dianne Nikkel baking sourdough at night in what was then [the] Ponderosa Deli in Truckee. Now the company has 85 employees, more than 200 varieties of artisan bread products, and a Truckee baking facility that produces 25,000 units of bread a day. Despite the relentless demand, the Nikkels don’t rush the baking process.
“Time is the enemy of bland and poor-tasting bread,” Keith said, noting that bread turns out better when baked more slowly.
Family management has fueled the company’s forward progress. Sons Scott, 26, runs sales and distribution and has worked for the company for almost 14 years, and Carson, 25, does IT and accounting. In reality, though, the brothers have been helping with the business since they were kids.
Keith recalls the days when the kids joined dad on early morning bread runs. He would pay them with Vietnamese doughnuts that he would find in whatever town the deliveries were made.
“It’s been the same motions for us forever,” Carson said. “When we started to work for the company officially, it was a continuation of our lives before that.”
The sons say they have enjoyed growing up around the bread industry.
“I had fun back in the day,” Scott said. “We would slap labels on the bread bags around the dinner table, trying to help out.”
Truckee Sourdough Company supplies bread to chains like Safeway and Save Mart, local restaurants, and offers third-party labeling, where brands can put their logo on bread baked by Truckee Sourdough Company. As of this school year, they also supply all schools in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District with items like bread rolls, pizza dough, bagels, and more.
“I’m like a mad scientist; I come up with a new recipe just about every week,” Keith said. He points out his jalapeño cheddar roll and giant pretzels as examples.
Success has come with the inevitable turmoil of working closely with family. The Nikkels all work in the same office, except Scott [who works at night delivering bread], usually seven days a week, and admit to times of tension. Working a lot also means they often miss out on traditional family events, but they have learned to adapt.
Keith, 70, admits to not being able to stay at the same pace forever, but says it’s hard to envision not being involved.
“I would like to see the company stay with the family after seeing it built up to where it is,” he said. “It’s been a long, great run.”