• Roger W. Downes

Annie's Bakery, Generations In The Making...

Updated: Feb 14

A Carolina Success Story Baked In Family Traditions...

Sure, there are endless choices of bread shipped in from huge factories from far-off states that you could pick up at your local grocery store. You may even have a favorite brand because it was the one your mother used to pack in your lunch for school. However, before all those big national brands took over, bread used to be mixed, kneaded and baked at your local bakery; it was fresh, warm and exploded with flavor.

Hear the story from Annie's Bakery Founder Joe Ritota

Years ago, each morning a baker would turn a key unlocking their bakery’s front door, fire up the ovens, and start mixing their dough with just the right seasonings to give their bread that special flavor their customers had come to love. Sadly, you may believe this flame of dedication had been blown out long ago by the cold winds of Corporate America, but in Asheville, North Carolina that flame has not only stayed lit but grown into a raging fire at Annie’s Bakery.

“I love to bake bread,” is not something you hear on a daily basis from the average person, but it is the driving force that fills Annie’s Bakery Founder, Giuseppe “Joe” Ritota’s mind each day. But those thoughts come naturally to Ritota, a fourth-generation baker who was born on a flour sack according to his mother. As a young man he was by his parent’s side in their small South Carolina bakery helping with the day-to-day operations.

After what seemed like a lifetime to a young Ritota, he decided to venture down a different career path in his early twenties to discover what else the world had to offered. However, it wasn’t long after that he started baking artisan breads in his home for friends, family and food boutiques. You just can’t escape the path that God has put you on, as Ritota discovered as his bread business and love of baking grew out of his kitchen and into his garage, with an extra addition built on to house his budding bakery.

That was just the beginning as the demand for Annie’s Bakery, named wisely after Ritota’s wife, continued to grow affording them a four thousand square foot storefront in Sylva, North Carolina. For several years Ritota and his wife, an accomplished chef in her own right, operated the retail portion of the bakery as the wholesale bread service grew. As more Asheville clients signed up for daily shipments, Annie’s Bakery had to grow once again moving to a twenty-two thousand square foot facility in West Asheville. So, just two short decades after baking in his garage and selling his breads from the back of his pickup truck, Ritota, his wife Annie and their crew of thirty plus employees now turn out over ten thousand loaves of artisan bread each day which can be found at local groceries around Western North Carolina like Ingles Markets (another local success story).

When I asked if his father was proud of him, he replied that his Dad brags on him to others and expresses how proud he is of his son for growing his bakery so large. Ritota returned that praise saying his father has been a major factor in his success, coaching and encouraging him through the tough and good times.

As I wrap up this family story, please keep in mind the next time you are shopping for bread, reset your family’s buying habits and welcome artisan bread from Annie’s Bakery into your home. I promise you will love the smells and flavors Annie’s Bakery will bring to your kitchen, but most importantly you will be helping a man continue a family tradition of waking up early, turning the key in the bakery’s front door, firing up the ovens and making the dough so you and your family can have a little slice of heaven made with love and dedication.


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