Famed New Orleans bakery Bellegarde has announced that it is now an employee-owned cooperative. The bakery will continue to produce its bread, baked goods and pasta for New Orleans’ top restaurants, retail partners and for sale in its retail store.

Bellegarde was founded in 2012 by baker Graison Gill who used traditional techniques combined with identity-preserved ingredients to produce freshly stone milled flour, pasta, grits, pastries and breads. The bakery became known for supplying restaurants and retail partners around New Orleans with its quality-driven, whole-grain flour, pasta, grits and sourdough bread. In 2019, Bellegarde opened its 3,200 square foot bakery and retail shop on Apple Street.

“The energy and integrity of Bellegarde will be preserved by the people who maintained it all these years,” says Gill. “What makes the co-op model so exciting is that it stands for a way things used to be done and how many people want them to be done in the future. Much like bread baking, it’s a way of doing business where you get out what you put in. I’m proud and excited for this change. And I ask for New Orleans’ support. The same you’ve provided for years. But this time to a newer spirit at Bellegarde.”

Gill has sold his ownership of Bellegarde to five employees who will form Bellegarde’s employee advisory board. Additional Bellegarde employees will be eligible to join the cooperative after one year of employment. Gill will be opening a new bakery and flour mill in London while pursuing his passion for teaching, baking and advocacy.

“The five founding members have been at Bellegarde for a combined 16 years. We are excited to continue offering the same quality products Bellegarde has always been known for,” says general manager Mollie Sciacca, who took on her role at Bellegarde in 2017.

The Bellegarde team consulted with Project Equity, a California-based nonprofit that provides hands-on guidance to businesses who want to transition to employee ownership. Project Equity will continue to guide and support the new worker-owners to ensure the business thrives in this model.