Member Spotlight: McLain's Bakery

Greater Kansas City has no shortage of delicious bakeries and coffee houses, but one name has been around longer than most: McLain’s. This expanding bakery was founded 75 years ago and is one of the KC Chamber’s 2020 Top 10 Small Businesses. A big reason for McLain’s longevity and success? A healthy respect for the tradition of the past while embracing the future.

That past started in 1945, when McLain’s Bakery opened its first location just north of 75th and Wornall in the Waldo neighborhood. It became an iconic bakery owned by the McLain family for three generations. In 2011, the business moved to Gregory Boulevard and Grand Street, where it continues to be a neighborhood staple. In 2014, the Hirleman family bought the bakery from the interim owner and focused on reviving the original nostalgia while moving forward.

The Hirlemans made sure classic items like cinnamon rolls, cakes, cookies, danish, and other pastries stayed on the menu, but also wanted to expand. They added breakfast sandwiches, salads, a coffee bar, and more. That expansion paid off. McLain’s still has the Gregory and Grand location, but in 2016 they opened another bakery in Overland Park, one in Lawrence in 2018, and just this past summer a fourth location in Shawnee – in the middle of a pandemic.

So what sets them apart from the competition? McLain’s management says there are three things that differentiate them from other bakeries and coffee shops. First, they successfully combine their own history with innovative products for today’s customers. Second, they’ve created spaces where those customers want to gather. McLain’s has added pastry decorating events, books signings, neighborhood block parties and more. And finally, McLain’s prioritizes people by creating a welcoming environment for everyone who walks in the door. They welcome faces who are new to the neighborhood and the bakery, as well as some customers who have been coming for 60 years.

McLain’s has had significant amount of growth the past few years – an annual sales increase of more than 60% since 2014. But they say they haven’t lost sight of their highest priority: the people. Not only do they want their customers to have the best experience possible, but McLain’s wants to empower their employees to make that happen. They believe employees thrive when they’re put in a place to explore their creativity and follow their passions. Employees are encouraged to share their ideas and find ways to see those ideas come to pass while helping the business.

In the next decade, McLain’s hopes not only to expand their brand and open more locations across KC, they also want to be known as an employer of choice through quality programs and initiatives for their employees. McLain’s is working to strengthen and develop the diversity in their workforce. They want to have long-term, home-grown leaders who want to be change agents both in the company and the community.

You can learn more about McLain’s at the KC Chamber’s Top 10 CEO Panel, October 1, 9:00 am – 10:30 am. The Small Business of the Year will be announced October 15, at the Small Business Celebration Virtual Awards event. The Presenting Sponsor for the CEO Panel is Bank Midwest, and the Presenting Sponsor for the Awards is the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.  Our 2020 Small Business Programming is presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and Evergy. The CEO Level Sponsor is Honeywell.