Dave Dahl balances life, work and play


0413 FOB LiveWorkPLay DaveDahlEvery package of Dave’s Killer Bread tells president Dave Dahl’s rags-to-riches story in small print on the bottom. “I was a four-time loser,” it begins, “before I realized I was in the wrong game.”

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BY CHRISTINA COOKE

0413 FOB LiveWorkPLay DaveDahl
Dave Dahl, president of Dave’s Killer Bread, plays guitar with Dave’s Killer Granddaddies.
// Photo by Sierra Breshears

Every package of Dave’s Killer Bread tells president Dave Dahl’s rags-to-riches story in small print on the bottom. “I was a four-time loser,” it begins, “before I realized I was in the wrong game.” After serving 15 years in prison for drug, armed robbery and assault convictions (for the record: no actual killing), Dahl, 50, got clean and joined his family’s bread-making business. Dahl’s story of redemption, as well as his organic, whole-grain breads, resonated with consumers, and what started as a four-variety operation at the Portland Farmers’ Market in 2005 grew into a 16-variety operation across 13 states by 2012. Dahl recently announced a 50/50 partnership with New York-based private equity firm Goode Partners and plans to expand even further.

THEY SAY I’M…

“A scrappy kind of guy. I like to battle. I expect things to be a certain way and hold people and myself accountable. In the past, I was always alone. At times, that seems to work against me, because I have a rough way of dealing with things. People close to me can find me rather difficult. But it’s a plus at the same time. I’ve learned to respect my own point of view. I’m dryly humorous.”

THE BACKSTORY

“I wish they would understand that I was never that much of a badass. The reason I went to prison several times was because I had depression that I treated with methamphetamines. I needed help and I didn’t get it until I was pretty old; that’s all it’s ever been for me. I wish they knew that there are a lot of people like me out there that just need some help.”

DOWNTIME

“Most of my life revolves around the bread and charity work. Because of my addiction to work and Dave’s Killer Bread, it’s hard for me to say no to stuff. But I just bought a cabin on the mountain, so I’m going to spend a lot of time there. I have a band called Dave’s Killer Granddaddies. I play basketball. I’d like to find more balance in my life — more time at the cabin, more time with my guitar, more time with my woman and kids.”

THE WORK FILES

“Not only do I make the best bread I can possibly imagine making, I get to be myself and make a difference with my product and my story. I want people to [get] that it’s about enjoying the journey, falling down and getting back up. I get excited when I’m speaking to a group of people, and I see their faces light up with an understanding of ‘Whoa, this guy did this, so can I.’”

FAVORITE BREAD

“I am such a simple guy. I like Good Seed bread. I put mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and mayonnaise on it, and I’m rockin’. The name of the bread is meaningful because of my transformation from a bad seed to a good seed. I have a good seed tattooed on my back. It guides me and helps me remember I can plant good seeds in other people and we’ll make the world better.”