BY SARABETH OPPLIGER
“Just give him a job. Don’t follow him everywhere.”
Bill Mahoney, dressed in a blue windbreaker and jeans, runs his worked hands through the nest of gray-white hair that rests on his head as he makes his morning rounds through the kitchen. He pauses to instruct an employee who is supervising a part-time worker. The tall, blond kitchen staffer nods silently in acknowledgement and turns back to explain a task to the young boy.
Mahoney passes through the rolling racks of baked goods and past the oversized oven at the center of the kitchen to the front counter, stirring the scent of fresh bread and eggs that linger in the air. He kneels down behind the worn wooden countertop to rifle through papers and boxes and pulls out a handful of cash. With a hand-written and slightly crumpled list in hand he tells the cashier that he’s heading out and makes his way to the front door.
Today is grocery-shopping day.
Mahoney founded New Day Bakery 22 years ago. Located at 4thAvenue and Blair Street in
Eugene, Ore., New Day is a self-managing environment according to Mahoney. He trusts his employees to do their job the right way and doesn’t need to babysit them during their work shift.
“I usually know right away if someone will fit in or not,” Mahoney says as he crosses the gravel driveway to his small four-door car.
There’s a flow of a routine to his shop that not everyone can keep up with it. Although Mahoney does what he can to help out those in need of a job, not all of his applicants fit into the groove of New Day Bakery.
It’s difficult to understand what Mahoney means by “fitting in” until you see the ease of work between employees and the New Day customers. Swirling through the air of the bakery, intermixed with the scent of baked goods and fresh brews, is a comfortable and familiar buzz. It’s reminiscent of that warm and fuzzy feeling of being at home in your kitchen with your loved ones around you. A cheerful “Hi there! How’s it goin’?” from the staff as couples, friends and families pass through the doorway shows you right away you’re in a comfortable place. This isn’t the environment for the lazy and unenthused. New Day requires pep and friendliness, even at the seven o’clock opening on Friday mornings.
This is a place to come home to.
Mahoney always knew he wanted to be self-employed and after working various jobs in college and the years that followed, he purchased a small cookie business in Eugene. He obtained the shop location and some kitchen equipment and with a starting staff of only a couple employees Mahoney began to make a name for himself. Cookies turned into serving lunch. Lunch turned into a full day of providing full meals, baked goods, and beverages to the Eugene community.
Mahoney’s favorite word?: enthusiasm, which he says is the most important quality to have. And ultimately what got him to where he is today: manager of a steady business in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene, Ore.
Mahoney makes short work of shopping at Cash & Carry, a restaurant supply store in West Eugene. He’s been coming here to stock up on bulk supplies for so long he knows where everything is by heart. Starting from the right end of the store and moving to the opposite end on the left, he piles napkins, mushrooms, eggs, tomatoes, and some assorted meat onto a metal cart. He’s swift and silent as he shops, pausing every so often to look at his list and make mental notes before moving on to the next aisle. At the checkout, the cashier greets him by name and their familiar exchange solidifies Mahoney’s claim that he’s a regular to this store.
Throughout his 22 years of owning New Day Bakery, Mahoney has established strong and committed business relationships with his staff, some lasting as long as he’s owned his store. It’s the respect that Mahoney displays as a manager and business owner that keeps these relationships ongoing.
Jeff Thomas, a two-year employee at New Day, works the cash register at the front desk. His time at New Day has taught him a lot about working with people. He likes Bill and enjoys the environment that the bakery provides. As a student at Lane Community College, he’s able to work with Mahoney to create a schedule that fits around his class commitments.
“You have to give people the freedom to work on their own,” Mahoney says about his current employees. That freedom is how New Day has become an enjoyable environment, not only for the staff, but for those faithful customers as well. It’s a place for family, a place for community and a place for respect.
And it all started with a little enthusiasm.