COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) -- Whether you're a college student looking for a place to study, or a busy mom looking for breakfast, Blue Baker has met your needs for almost two decades. If you asked the man who created the successful chain of bakeries, he'll tell you it was never what he expected.
David Fox knows his way around a kitchen. 16 years ago, the New York native moved to College Station after his wife was accepted to Texas A&M University. Over the years, he's built a bakery empire in the Brazos Valley. But, Fox will tell you, that was never his plan.
"I actually didn't want that," Fox said.
"I always admired restaurants and places that were kind of one offs and unique and that's what I wanted. I was really happy with one store, one location and that's what I was aiming for." Fox's goal with that first Blue Baker on Dominik Drive was simple; he needed a job.
"I was looking for a job and couldn't find one," Fox laughed. The original store was just sitting there, he said. It was a vacant building that had been a restaurant. It didn't take long for the community to grow on Fox and his wife. They started their family here, and soon, his Blue Baker family started to expand.
There are now four Blue Bakers. One in Austin and three in College Station. Fox said the main push for growing was to create more opportunity for people that were fun to work with. That's what pushed him to open the stores they operate now.
"We're in no rush to open 100 stores, or anything like that, " Fox explained. He remembered opening their second store on University Drive. It was four years after opening the original store and some of his most talented employees were growing older. Fox said they needed more opportunity in management experience and higher pay.
"It's pretty fun to be able to keep people who are fun to work with," said Fox as we walked through the kitchen at his newest location in south College Station. He introduced us to Francisco. He's been with the company for 15 years, almost as long as Fox. In fact, there aren't many employees left who can claim being there at the beginning.
"I'm still the only one who can claim 16 years," laughed Fox.
Fox and his family still live near the original store, in the College Hills community. He said each year, the community has gained in importance and is now the real reason behind everything they do at blue baker.
"It's just a wonderful place to raise a family and that's what really retained us, is that community aspect," Fox said. In each store, he stresses service. Both, to the customer and community. The events blue baker is part of are almost hard to count.
"I have no idea. It's kind of out of control," laughed Fox.
"We do a number of types of events with different groups, but there's something going on every week definitely."
That recognition is visible by the number of awards Blue Baker has won over the years. In 2017, the restaurant won the Restaurant Neighbor award. The award recognizes individuals and restaurant groups have demonstrated a dedicated commitment to serving their communities through outstanding charitable service and philanthropy.
Since 2007, Blue Baker has partnered with Bryan Broadcasting for Christmas Angels. Each location serves as a pick-up/drop-off location for community members who select a paper angel from the Christmas trees set up inside each restaurant. Thousands of gifts are collected at Blue Baker stores and given to kids in our community who might not have a gift at Christmas time.
The number of events that Blue Baker partners with is impressive: Empty Bowls, Jr., CSISD Foundation Cookie Sale, Voice for Children, Lemonade Day, the Junior League of B/CS's Stuff the Bus, Books and a Blanket, just to name a handful.
These days, Fox doesn't do much of the baking anymore, but his commitment to quality and our community is just as strong as the day he started.
"There's just an amazing sort of ethos of service to others and that's not normal," said Fox.
"That wasn't part of what we understood and we've learned it from this community. We've embraced it and now, for us, it's almost more important than what we serve. It's how we serve," continued Fox.
Blue Baker has become synonymous with College Station. Many former A&M students and residents send messages back to Fox, telling him about how his restaurants have impacted them.
"It's important to us. We really want to be here in 100 years," said Fox. He shared the story of a PhD candidate at A&M who sent him a note after graduating. He remembered her always being in the store, studying and meeting with classmates.
"She, basically, credited us with helping her get her doctoral degree," smiled Fox. It's those memories and interactions, he said, that always take him by surprise. Students tend to make Blue Baker a go-to work or study destination. It's something Fox and his employees have come to expect, especially during finals each semester.
"One year, our WiFi went out. All of it shut down because we had more than 200 users on the system at one time," laughed Fox.
"As you get older and mature in this business, you expect the unexpected and look forward to what's going to drop out of the sky," said Fox. Often, those aren't fun to deal with, but he believes in trying to keep a smile on his face and keep moving forward. Since that WiFi outage, Fox said they've worked on making sure it doesn't happen again.
Blue Baker is celebrating their sweet sixteen this year. On May 15th, they'll celebrate their anniversary with free chocolate chip cookies for anyone who comes to a Blue Baker location.