The History of Em’s
Em’s Bread was started by Melissa Engelhart in Dayton Ohio in 1993.
As the mother of three small children, she wanted to work from home so she could participate in the kids’ activities. With a liquid sourdough starter given to her by her mother, Ethel (the “E” in Em’s) Em’s was born. Each day at 4:00 am, she would begin baking, then after getting the older kids off to school, she would start making deliveries and picking up supplies.
Em’s quickly gained a reputation for having decadently delicious bread, and soon was being carried by Dayton’s legendary Dorothy Lane Market, Zink’s Meat, Hidden Valley Farm, and numerous other upscale restaurants and delis.
Eventually, Em’s became a “family” business when Melissa’s son, at the age of three, would make the rounds with her as she delivered bread. On one occasion, the three-year-old asked the manager of the neighborhood Kroger store if he would sell his mom’s “Washmush.” The manager agreed, and not surprisingly, the “Washmush” (more commonly known as Cinnamon Rolls) was a smash hit.
Eventually, Em’s was put on hold as the family moved from Dayton to Shreveport. Fortunately, the famous liquid starter survived the move. Melissa was able to continue the reconstitution of the starter and baked for friends and family out of a little café by the name Cush’s. Upon moving back to Cincinnati in 2003, Melissa went to work for the family business. In 2015, after a successful career, Melissa decided to walk away from the corporate world and turn her attention to her passion of baking bread. She had kept the starter alive during those 12 years by baking for the kids, their friends, their teams, their bands, and the Drop Inn center. The starter had even gone on family vacations, was babysat by neighbors, and at times exploded in friends’ refrigerators. Em’s was reborn! Melissa began baking out of her home and selling the bread at local farmers markets, delis, and restaurants. Em’s was growing very quickly, when one evening her husband came home and found the entire house filled with bread; the kitchen was a complete mess, with flour on every surface imaginable. He took one look at Melissa and said “Honey, I love you, but you need to get the hell out of here”. And so she did.
In May of 2015, Em’s opened a stand at historic Findlay Market located in the Over The Rhine area, downtown Cincinnati.
Once again, the liquid starter (which is kept under lock and key at multiple locations) survived the move. It was with this opening that the motto “Peace, Love, Bread” was born. Word of the delicious bread spread rapidly and Melissa was making studio appearances on local affiliates of WKRC and Fox. After numerous appearances on WKRC, Melissa quickly found a new friend in morning anchor, Sheila Gray. That relationship ultimately became the foundation to one of Em’s most popular sandwiches – the Sheila Grey Giant German. Em’s quickly outgrew the original small stand at Findlay Market to the point that cookies were made in a back hallway, and bread was cooling next to it. Demand for Em’s products were so robust, more space was needed. Quickly. In May of 2016, Melissa bought out a vendor at Findlay Market and gained four times the space of the original stand. After several months of construction, Em’s opened its new gorgeous stand in August of 2017. It is in the middle of the market – featuring a bakery with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and a fire engine red 80 quart Hobart mixer. Findlay Market patrons can now watch Em’s bread being baked daily! Soon, the starter will be on the move again as Em’s will be opening a second location in the atrium of Columbia Plaza, which is located in the central business district at the corner of 5th and Vine St. It’s been an exciting venture for Melissa and her family, and we look forward to seeing what happens next.
Peace, Love, Bread