Avalon International Breads is a “right livelihood business” which means that we have three bottom lines that inform every aspect of our business.
Our promise: 100% organic flour in everything we make, every day. Our commitment: organic ingredients when possible, local ingredients whenever feasible, and environmentally friendly practices at every opportunity.
We aspire to create an oasis of healing and compassion in a world that is sorely in need. We support organizations and projects that create a healthier, more vibrant Detroit.
Commitment to the health and well being of our employees means fair wages, good benefits and an environment that encourages growth. By working at a “right livelihood business,” all of us at Avalon benefit from an opportunity to live a life bigger than ourselves.
To learn more about right livelihood businesses, visit www.coopamerica.org and read “Building a Business the Buddhist Way,” by Geri Larkin.
Socially responsible businesses are all the rage now, but in 1997 when we began, we were setting new ground in Detroit. Our concept was to have a business that did good and did well. Geri Larkin, corporate marketing executive turned Buddhist priest, introduced us to the Buddhist principle of "right livelihood". With her guidance, we refined our concept to three bottom lines: earth, community, employees. Avalon’s business model was born.
Earth: In all things, we aspire to “do the least harm.” In business, we strive to work in harmony with the earth and wherever possible contribute to the earth’s healing.
Organic: We are practical idealists, always balancing competing values. We want to be accessible to a cross-section of our community, yet we need an environmental line in the sand. Thus, the promise: no matter what happens, the price of flour or demands of the marketplace, we will only use 100% organic flour in all of our products.
A consultant once suggested that we start a non-organic (i.e. cheaper) line to attract more restaurant customers. We considered it for twelve hours, until waking up in the middle of the night and remembering, “We can't! The Avalon promise says 100% organic flour in everything we make everyday, not everything we say we make everyday!” We have run out of flour and driven all night to get organic bread flour from Traverse City. In 2008, when the price of flour tripled, we raised our prices for the first time in 10 years.... by 30%! We were nervous. Our customers’ response? “It’s about time, ladies!”
We are now the biggest organic bread flour purchaser in Michigan, purchasing over 9,000 pounds of organic, milled grains weekly from hard-working organic wheat farmers. By choosing organic flour, we vote with our dollars for businesses and farmers that support our values and protect the earth. We use other organic ingredients whenever possible, including raisins, whole grains, peanut butter, and seasonal local produce, and we provide organic choices in our Avalon Marketplace including coffees, teas and bread spreads.
Local: Organic is good; local can be even better. Supporting local farmers keeps our dollars in our economy, protects precious farmland from development, secures the highest quality food possible, and reduces the carbon footprint of our food. We strive to purchase produce from local and, whenever possible, Detroit farmers; this past summer, we purchased 750 lbs of local tomatoes, garlic, greens and myriad vegetables from the “Grown in Detroit” cooperative, a collaborative of over 90 Detroit growers. We are part of an "Agri-Urban" economy in Detroit that is fast becoming a model for other cities throughout the world. (www.detroitagriculture.org/GRP_Website/Grown_In_Detroit.html) Our Marketplace features ” local and Michigan-based businesses offering jams, honey and other “bread spreads”.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Although we are in a cramped space in a city without curbside recycling or industrial composting, we do what we can to reduce our waste. We are proud to be a founding customer of Recycle Here! (www.recyclehere.net), which started recycling in Detroit five years ago, and our compost goes to Earthworks Urban Farm at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen on the east side of Detroit (www.cskdetroit.org/EWG). We also use environmentally friendly cleaning products whenever possible. These are all small steps that we hope to expand as we grow.
Community: From Greening of Detroit to Detroit Waldorf School to Alternatives for Girls, Avalon contributes to the community in myriad ways. Whenever possible, leftover bread goes to shelters and neighbors in need. We contribute both financially and in-kind to more than 100 organizations and projects per year that match our core values. And, perhaps most importantly, Avalon contributes to the community by producing delicious, accessible baked goods with no additives or preservatives in an open production area for all to see. That’s no small feat in a city where 83% of Detroiters do not have daily access to fresh foods. Additionally, the bakery has become both an entry point for newcomers and visitors to Detroit and a gathering place for Detroiters. We also employ Detroiters, positively contributing to the economy of our city.
Employees: We have aspired to provide a great workplace, fair wages, and benefits, with room to learn and grow. Forty-five people working in a 2,000 square foot space with one bathroom and an office the size of a walk in closet: we certainly have our challenges. But we are proud to have provided health care and paid vacation time for our employees since our first year of operation. We try to promote from within, enabling hard-working bakers and sales people to grow into management positions.