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South Jordan Baker Keeps Employees Working While Giving Back

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — The recipe for success always involves an idea. For Steve Borg, that idea turned into a lifelong career and dozens of employees he’s indebted to — employees he doesn’t want to let down, even though the future of his business may be shrouded in uncertainty.

His career kicked off in front of an old oven back in 1975, after working at a bakery managed by his grandfather.

“I worked with a lot of wartime Europeans,” Borg said. “Germans, Dutch, and I learned from them while I was going to college. A lot of immigrants were bakers.”

Eventually, he cooked up his own career, buying a shuttered business named “Schmidt’s.”

“It had been a small German bakery,” he said. “When we bought it, there was one oven in there, a couple of old showcases. He’d come in there and just open up and bake a few things for his German friends on Christmas. He lived next door.”

Borg said the “Schmidt’s” part of his business came to be because he couldn’t afford to change the name on the sign of the bakery he bought.

The old name lives on to this day — Borg’s business is called “Schmidt’s Pastry Cottage.” But the only reason he kept the name was out of necessity.

“I couldn’t afford to change the name on the building,” Borg said with a smile.

With a healthy helping of flour and a whole lot of elbow grease, his business grew. Borg now owns three separate locations in Utah but scoffs at the idea of being praised for his pastries.

“I can’t build this alone,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without my family, and I couldn’t do it without my employees. I have employees that have been with me for 20-something years.”

But recent events have left his business feeling the pinch. The lack of public gatherings as a result of the global pandemic means he’s seen entire orders evaporate.

“My wife was worried because we lost all our wholesale business,” Borg said. “All our reception business, no wedding cakes, everything got shut down. We were baking for Vivint, and you know what happened there.”

An employee decorates a birthday cake in the kitchen of Schmidt’s Pastry Cottage in South Jordan.

Borg refers to his employees as “family.” He repeats it over and over, constantly speaking of how much they’ve meant to his success — and when those employees learned what was happening in Utah and around the world, he knew they were weighed down with worry.

“When I came in, they were all, ‘What are we going to do now?'” he said.

Their question was clear; his answer was unconventional.

“I came in one morning with my son, and I told him, ‘We’re gonna give bread away,'” Borg said.

While the kitchen in South Jordan is still stirring frosting, baking eclairs and decorating cakes, there’s also an endless assembly line of dough rolling on racks towards the giant oven. Borg’s given away thousands of loaves of bread over the past few days —not just to help his customers, but to make sure his employees keep working and keep getting paid.

“I want to take care of them, because they took care of me all these years,” he said.

But for those looking to take a loaf, there’s a catch: No one is allowed to only take just one. While helping keep his employees working, he’s also trying to encourage a sense of community. Each loaf comes with a sticker, reading:

“Customers, as a token of gratitude for your continued support at this difficult time, we are gifting you two loaves of bread. One is for you to enjoy and one is to share. With keeping social distancing in mind, please share it with someone who would benefit from paying it forward. We’re all in this together and our hope is to spread some comfort at this time.”

A label comes with each loaf of bread, encouraging Utahns to check on their neighbors during these trying times.

Borg plans to keep baking for as long as he’s able. He said he’s been surprised by some of his longtime customers reaching out with donations to help keep his kitchens running, and he even received a free shipment of flour from a company in Colorado.

While his employees continue to work, Borg hoped his customers will take the opportunity to reach out to someone else — passing along a gift of bread and checking to see how their neighbors are coping in a troubling time.

“It just helps,” he said. “It takes a little bit of the stress away.”

In Steve Borg’s kitchen, the key ingredient in the recipe for success involves looking out for those who helped get you to where you are — and remembering that none of us stands alone.

“We’re in it together,” he said. “It’s just a loaf of bread. As long as they go out and share it, it just makes somebody feel good for a little while.”

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