Peter Kelsey, Owner and Baker of The New French Bakery based in Minneapolis, has been named the Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The Small Business Person of the year is selected annually based on growth in sales or unit volume, increase in the number of employees, financial strength, innovativeness of product or service and evidence of contributions to community-oriented projects. Kristin Wood, Executive Director of SPEDCO nominated Peter for this award.
“When people tell me this is the best bread they’ve tasted – that makes my day,” said Peter Kelsey. It’s the reason he became involved in the food service industry. His love for bread began at age 8, when he tasted his first fresh-from-the-oven croissant in Montreal. It made him happy and years later, his life’s calling became clear: He wanted to make people happy with food.
Minnesota native, Peter Kelsey, began his career in food in 1979, when he worked at The New French Café in downtown Minneapolis. He moved to Paris to attend Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and subsequently worked at the historic and renowned La Tour D’Argent restaurant there. He returned to the U.S. in 1981 as head chef at The New French Café, then worked for the next decade to open restaurants including Faegre’s and Sydney’s in Minneapolis, early California Pizza Kitchen locations in Los Angeles and other establishments in San Francisco. In 1994, he returned to Minneapolis to start work on a new concept – The New French Bakery, named for and adjacent to the now-closed iconic Minneapolis restaurant. Peter opened the first retail location of The New French Bakery at 122 N. 4th Street in Minneapolis in February 1995.
He saw the possibilities for creating a market for artisan crafted breads at exactly the right time – as consumers were becoming more sophisticated in their tastes and more discriminating in the quality of ingredients in their food. He wanted to create a better consumer experience, one that allowed gourmet chefs and ordinary household cooks to enjoy the best ingredients at their tables. From a small retail storefront in downtown Minneapolis, Peter has grown New French Bakery into one of the premier bakeries of artisan bread, serving markets across the United States and the Caribbean.
In 1997, Peter obtained a 504 loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration to purchase a building located at 2609 – 26th Avenue South in Minneapolis to serve as his baking headquarters. Another SBA 504 loan was used for a subsequent expansion in 1999, bringing the total square footage to 24,400 square feet. In 2003, a third 504 loan was used to purchase specialized baking equipment including industrial-sized ovens.
The New French Bakery continued its growth pattern to the point where an even larger baking facility was required to handle the volume. In 2007, SPEDCO – a certified development company with a territory that encompasses the state of Minnesota and nine counties in western Wisconsin – was brought in to work on additional SBA financing with Peter on the purchase and renovation of a second building, a 45,000 square foot facility located at 828 Kasota Avenue in Minneapolis A four SBA 504 loan was used to purchase highly specialized equipment for the bread line that went into The New facility. This edqu9pment allowed The New French Bakery to service a growing demand for their frozen par-baked bread that is being marketed through national distribution channels.
Peter is presently contemplating a fifth SBA 504 loan through SPEDCO for his business – more equipment to handle higher production orders. The paperwork on that loan has not yet been completed yet the possibility has been raised in recent months of a potential sixth SBA loan using the Export Working Capital Program as orders are coming in from outside the United States.
Job creation at The New French Bakery has risen dramatically through the years: in 1997, at the time of his first SBA loan application, Peter’s company employed 27 people. Ten years later – after the fourth SBA loan – the company employed 150 individuals. As of November, 2012, that number has increased to 290 employees earning a living-wage or better.
Peter was honored at the Minnesota Small Business Week Awards program on May 6, 2013, at the Depot Minneapolis.