Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? (Dennis Larson speaking) We bake a variety of breads in a wood-fired, brick oven. We're strictly wholesale, so we bake on Mondays and Thursdays and deliver on Tuesdays and Fridays. We deliver to a mix of a few grocery stores, restaurants and specialty shops. We've been doing it a little over seven years.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? We moved here from San Rafael, Calif., seven years ago. It was getting too crowded and expensive. We bought our property in Williams in 1993 with the long-term goal of moving up here.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? Baking bread at home has always been a hobby. The inspiration was that in Marin and Sonoma counties there are quite a few wood-fired, brick ovens and we were inspired by breads from those places. We essentially took what had been a hobby and moved forward into something we could do.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? Probably to do research on the customer base and demographics of the area. Our basic goal had been to develop a home-based business. But given the fact we were living out in Williams, would we want to build a home-based business or do something in town with a store front? The thing that goes along with that is to take on the task of building a bakery and a brick oven. What we do is very hands-on. I fire the oven the evening before we bake and feed all the sourdough starters the day before. If we had a bakery in town, there would be extra trips on what is sort of a day off.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? We wanted the business where we lived and the lifestyle that went with that. We decided to go wholesale because it gives us a more flexible schedule. In my previous career, I was a programmer. It was never 9 to 5, it was like 7 to 7 with an hour's commute on each end.

Who are your competitors? Most of our competitors are small, local, hand-crafted bakeries: New Sammy's in Talent, Sunstone in Ashland and Rise Up! out in the Little Applegate Valley.

What are your goals? The goal right now is to build up our Internet sales. We continually ship bread to customers in New York, Virginia and Illinois, as well as to a variety of people in California. The bread travels well. We use two-day priority mail, and we haven't had problems. What we bake on Monday goes in the mail Tuesday and is usually there by Thursday at the latest. We're currently baking 200 loaves per night, or 400 per week. If we hired employees and baked more days a week, we could double that, but I don't think that's the goal. We average 200 loaves, and there are times when we could do considerably more. Around here, the business is seasonal, busier during the summer and slower during the winter. The produce stands we deliver to are closed, and the restaurants are slow. We sell at the Rogue Creamery, and they're slower during the winter. It's building slowly, but we do have regular Internet customers.

What training or education did you need? I took a couple of bread-baking courses at the San Francisco Baking Institute down by the airport. Then it was trial and error. For the first year, it seemed each time we baked it was a new experience. A lot of it was due to weather and temperature shifting from one extreme to the other. During the first two years, while building our home and bakery here, we rented an oven from Pennington Farms. Being in an old barn, you are subject to whatever the weather conditions are. It took a lot to figure that out.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Do your homework and learn who your customers will be. Especially for what we do, stay passionate about it and have fun with it. If it's not fun any more, it just becomes a job.

To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.