Clark's Bakery at Stone Cave
Stone Cave’s rich history boasts “President Andrew Jackson [warming] his feet before the fireplace”* of General William Stone and serving as the second location for OCI’s headquarters from 1989 to 1999. Now James and Heike Clark are baking up whole-grain goodness.
“Somehow I’ve always been in the feeding business,” says Heike Clark, owner of Clark’s Bakery at Stone Cave, an OCI member ministry based in Tennessee. Originally from Germany, Heike moved to Florida when she was 18 years old. She met James, her husband, while feeding the homeless in Miami. The two relocated to North Florida to make their home in the country, but in 2002, James lost his job.
After reading a book full of ideas for opening one’s own business, the Clarks assessed the resources they had on hand and decided to put their kitchen to use to earn a living. They went door-to-door with approximately 100 loaves of bread per week, baking four loaves at a time. Preparations were underway to move their operation into a commercial kitchen when they received a phone call from Wildwood Lifestyle Center. Wildwood was searching for someone to run the restaurant, bake, or care for the kitchen and asking Heike to give a recommendation for a potential worker. They did, but James and Heike also decided to check out Wildwood for themselves. “They interviewed us and hired us on the spot,” Heike reflects. However, Wildwood turned out to be only a stopover on the journey.
While exploring the area, James and Heike visited the Stone Cave property. The academy and bakery, once bustling with activity as a supporting ministry, had closed their doors. The same week the property transferred ownership, the entrepreneurial couple requested to rent the bakery. Heike shares, “It was far from Florida,” but “it fit what we needed.” The Clarks felt called to revive the health work in Sequatchie County, which ranks in the top five unhealthiest counties out of 93 in Tennessee.
Today, Clark’s Bakery yields approximately 900 loaves of nutritious bread each week to sell primarily in the Chattanooga area and from its health food store. The bakery also ships to a few states. A health nugget is placed in each bag of the bakery’s top-selling product: whole wheat bread. The team would like to see bread sales increase, but the bakery’s clients appear to have an insatiable sweet tooth. “Everybody wants desserts!” Heike exclaims. Nevertheless, this ministry’s mission goes far beyond simply making delectable baked goods.
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2). This Bible verse, displayed on every product label, encapsulates what the team at Clark’s Bakery hopes each customer and employee will experience.
When Brandy Cunningham, a Sequatchie County native, began working at Clark’s Bakery, she wasn’t interested in adjusting her diet. “I didn’t like whole wheat bread,” she recounts. “I wasn’t willing to try anything [Heike] gave me at all.” Needless to say, Brandy’s taste buds have changed. “Now all I eat is whole wheat,” she says.
Tasked with making carob muffins, spelt cakes, and wheat sticks, Brandy not only loves coming to work every day, but says her job has transformed her life. “I was getting in a lot of trouble before I started working here, and thanks to them, I stay busy. That’s what I need for my kids and I right now,” Brandy shares.
Geraldine Horton, a local church member, says she deeply appreciates the ministry of Clark’s Bakery. Suffering from bone cancer,
Geraldine has found Heike to be a faithful friend and helpful health educator. “Heike comes over and juices. Now I’ve learned how to do all that,” she says.
Whether it’s giving health talks, hosting field trips for the 4H Club or Girl Scouts, tossing mini loaves of bread to the crowd during the 4th of July parade, or accompanying an elderly widow of a former customer to her church every Sunday, the team at Clark’s Bakery is making a lasting difference in their community with the Lord’s help. “We’re just a little drop in the bucket,” Heike states, “but we can all do something.”