Journeyman Bakery Closing August 22

Sales Never Reached Projections


It was two years ago this month that Journeyman Bakery closed its doors.

By Regina Clarkin

In the end it was the lack of dough, the green kind, that closed Journeyman Bakery. The artisan bread company that opened during the pandemic and produced ‘good bread for good people’ announced to customers yesterday its closure due to decreased sales.  The email from founder Michael Sellers referenced the lingering effects of the pandemic on the retail and wholesale aspects of the business. 

“There are two reasons behind this very difficult decision,” Sellers said in his letter. He is moving to Boston where he grew up to be closer to his aging parents and the revenue at the business is significantly lower than projected and current sales are not sufficient to cover the bakery’s overhead. 

Last August, Journeyman was averaging $3,000 per week in retail sales. The first few months after opening he averaged closer to $5,000 per week. The past three months the average has been about $1,400 a week. “I simply don’t have enough cash on hand to maintain the bakery until the more profitable holiday season,” he said. Journeyman’s electric bill is close to $1500 per month. The price of his artisan breads range from $4 for a baguette to $9.50 for a loaf of olive sourdough. 

His mom is in the final stages of Alzheimer and his dad needs support as he watches his wife of 60 years slip away. Sellers accepted a job as manager of marketing for Johnson String Instrument, one of the country’s largest suppliers of stringed instruments to music programs in public school systems.  “As a lifelong musician (piano and cello), I am thrilled to be starting this new chapter of my life at a wonderful company with a tradition of exceptional customer service — much like Journeyman,” said Sellers who left a career in marketing to begin Journeyman. 

Michael Sellers bagging up loaves of baguettes. Throughout the pandemic he gave away 245 free loaves of bread to people who lost their jobs. No questions were asked. It was his way of supporting the community.         Photo by Regina Clarkin 

He started advertising the bakery sale in March on the website of the Bread Bakers Guild of America and later placed an ad in, a national listing of businesses for sale. “Three people stepped forward, one of whom agreed verbally to purchase the bakery. He backed out of the deal after six weeks with the fear that he wouldn’t turn a profit quickly enough.” That potential buyer was concerned that Covid played a part in limited wholesale opportunities. Journeyman’s original business plan depended on extensive wholesale distribution to survive. “We were never able to secure a significant number of wholesale accounts due to all the restaurant shutdowns,” said Sellers. The other potential buyers were people who fantasized about buying a bakery but had no financial resources or business sense to make a deal a reality. 

Sellers, who opened the brick and mortar location on Central Avenue in August of 2020, has baked 37,796 loaves of bread since opening the business in March of 2020. He currently has one part-time kitchen assistant. “It was impossible to find a baker with experience to hire as a baking assistant. Everyone who applied was someone who had tried out bread baking during the pandemic and wanted to explore a change in careers. While that’s a ‘great story’, it’s not practical for a baker owner who doesn’t have the time to train someone new to the craft,” explained Sellers. 

As another revenue stream, Sellers launched in-person baking classes three years ago, but stopped during the pandemic. He started them again two weeks ago. “I had forgotten how much I love teaching. I’m hopeful to find a space in Boston to hold occasional baking classes for home bakers.

It’s not unusual that his business took off during the pandemic. People were in uncertain, vulnerable places and bread is a comfort food. Besides nourishing people, he built community around his product. The classes were another way of creating connections with people. The last ‘batch’ he’ll put in the oven will be a baking class. “I think it’s fitting that my last day in the bakery will be teaching a class Sunday, August 22,” said Sellers.