Traditional Breads: A Dream Powered by People

July 2014

In 1981, Fitzroy Alexander came to the U.S from the Caribbean island of Grenada. Living on a commune, Alexander got into the bread business in 1984, working at Rudy’s Foods, a bakery owned by the group. After the business sold to a French firm, then 22-year-old Alexander and 15 partners launched Signature Breads in Medford. By 1998, the company had grown to 300 employees and the group sold it to Hazlewood Farms, a Pillsbury company.

In 1999, Alexander decided he wanted to put his own stamp on the bread business, opening the Traditional Breads commercial bakery in Lynn. He was successful enough to retire but, he says, “I didn’t want to take the money and go back to the Caribbean and live on the beach. I did not see myself doing that. A lot of people who worked with me have been with me for 10 or 12 years of my baking life. I wanted to make sure I did something special for them, so at least they could benefit from the American Dream.”

Putting his previous business experience to work, Alexander took the right steps in building Traditional Breads’ revenues. For example, he utilized tax-exempt bonds and interest rate swaps to lower the company’s financing cost, which enabled him to invest in a state-of-the art baking facility and equipment. Those smart moves have paid off. Today, Traditional Breads employs nearly 170 people, and it has experienced a 37 percent revenue growth rate from 2010 to 2013.

 For Alexander, all those moves and the success of Traditional Breads support his greatest desire. “I don’t think this is about me as much as the fact that I’m in this place, in this time of my life, for a purpose. And my bigger purpose is the amount of people that I can actually bring along so that at least they can enjoy that dream,” he says. “And what that means is that they don’t have to worry about putting food on the table or feeding their family, or actually owning that nice car or living in that beautiful neighborhood. Because that’s what everybody wants for their family.”

That’s not just hyperbole. While Traditional Breads offers a range of typical of standard perks to its employees, that stops short of what Alexander wants to do. Here’s just one example: While his employees are all Lynn residents, they come from 26 different countries. To help bridge the gap for them, Alexander and Traditional Breads offer free English as a second language (ESL) courses. The educational offering helped earn Alexander the nonprofit Immigrant Learning Center’s Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2014.

 Accolades like this are not new to Alexander. He received the 2004 Governor’s Inner City Investment Award and was named 2007 Business Person of the Year by the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce. Not surprisingly, he credits his people for all his success. “I am who I am because of my partners,” he stated after winning the Immigrant of the Year award. “They’re not my employees. I work for them, because without them, I am nothing.”

Regarding his ability to build a company that supports his vision and his people, Alexander points to another partnership he’s had in place since launching his company. “When I started Traditional Breads, I needed a bank to partner with, and my accountant recommended Salem Five,” he says. “Since then, I’ve truly enjoyed my relationship with Salem Five. Whether it’s a small loan or thinking of the future, acquiring equipment, or investing in new technology, they’ve always been there. Undoubtedly, they’ve been an integral part of the success of my business because they’ve allowed me to free up a lot of the cash that has given me the opportunity to give my employees better wages and to invest in the technology that we need to compete.”

Building His Reflection in His Community

When Fitzroy Alexander started Traditional Breads in 1999, he wanted to “have a reflection of me in the community that I lived in.” At the time, he needed a local resource to team up with and he found Salem Five. Whether it’s been through equipment financing, mortgage refinancing, helping him obtain revenue bonds, or simply advising him through market transitions, “Salem Five has always had my back,” asserts Alexander.

Call John Hall at (978) 720-5336 to learn more about how Salem Five has helped Fitzroy Alexander create the type of company he truly wants in Traditional Breads and about how Salem five can fund your growth.