IN AND OUT of jail and prison for 15 of his 49 years, Dave Dahl, a former armed robber and recovering drug addict, is a self-professed “slow learner.” The creator of Dave’s Killer Bread, he is also living proof that even a slow learner who seems destined for a life of crime can turn his life around.
After a solid start growing up in a family of bakers, Dahl slid into a life of alcohol, drugs, stealing and dealing. As it turned out, he wasn’t a very gifted criminal, beginning a series of in and- out incarcerations. It was during his last sentence that he began to see the light. “I was fortunate to suffer in prison, because I got clean, and for the first time in my life I was confident without drugs,” says Dahl, who discovered at that time that he suffered from clinical depression.
He also discovered that he was smarter than he realized and a lot more interested in what life had to offer than in his next fix. He began working out and studying health and nutrition with a renewed fervor. After his 2004 release, clean and sober, Dahl rejoined his family’s baking business. His brother, Glenn, owner of NatureBake (www.naturebake. com), the healthful-bread business started by their father in the 1950s, welcomed him back and encouraged his ideas.
Within six months, Dave had designed six varieties of whole-grain, organic bread, four of which were introduced in August 2005 at the Portland Farmers Market’s “Summer Loaf ” artisan bread festival to rave reviews. At the helm of Dave’s Killer Bread, Dahl now produces approximately 400,000 loaves of bread a week (16 varieties) with names such as “Good Seed” and “Rockin’ Rye.”
It’s sold at Costco (for specific locations, or to order by mail, visit www.daveskiller bread.com). Dahl—who now spends a good deal of his time sharing his story of redemption with at-risk youths, business leaders, law enforcement and politicians— says he’s in no hurry to grow. “We’re going slow; we don’t want to grow too fast,” he says. This time, being a slow learner has its benefits. —T. Foster Jones for Costco magazine