GTPulse: Old Mission Bakery Provides ‘Pay As You May’ Bread to Community

Pearl Carson Brown has family history rooted in hard times, and a mom and pop grocery store from times past has inspired generations of giving at Old Mission Bakery.

In Monday’s story about some of the good surrounding the craziness in our northern Michigan community, it was said that this pandemic is showing who we are as a culture, however, basic needs transcend culture. Despite the government and media asking the public not to hoard or overstock on items, fear clouds sound judgment and many aren’t listening to logic or reason at the moment. This fear hoarding quickly leaves grocery stores depleted of everyday items like disinfectant, toilet paper, milk, eggs and bread on a daily basis. My dad lives in metro Detroit and had to search eight stores before finally finding a half-gallon of milk and one loaf of bread. In the quieter northern Michigan community occurrences like this are still happening, but I believe we have a lot of good samaritans up here that are providing balance.

Through local community group Spark in the Dark, I was introduced to Pearl Carson Brown, owner of Old Mission Bakery located in Traverse City.

The bakery is giving out free bread to people who need it and the kindness they’ve extended to the community has a history far longer than that of COVID-19.

During the Great Depression, Pearl’s grandfather was a math professor at East Tennessee State University. Eventually, the school was unable to pay its professors.

“They literally had no money left. They started giving the teachers door knobs and hinges off of the buildings because there was a place that would buy them and melt them down for some other purpose.”

The professors would sell the hinges and doorknobs, but they would also exchange them for food at a little mom and pop grocery store that accepted the knobs and hinges as payment.

“My grandparents appreciated that so much. It’s a story that has been handed down for 4 generations now in our family,” Pearl said.

Pearl’s grandparents had six (!) children. During the Great Depression, feeding six kids was incredibly difficult. The family grew a large garden to feed their family every year, but that wasn’t always enough to get by.

“But during the hard winter months in the worst part of the depression, those teachers still taught without pay, and those families were able to get by because of the kindness of others.”

Pearl is keeping that old school sense of community through her bakery today, and she is happy to help her community. Everyday, bread is put out on their Pay As You May table. Pearl encourages people to take what they need, and give what they can. Beyond that, bread is being donated to local food pantries as well.

There is no hiding who we are as individuals or a community when something difficult like this is going on. We get to choose who we are in relation to the chaos, and grace in the midst of it is always remembered.

“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for a nameless couple in Johnson City Tennessee that put others before the profit of their own business.”


To stay updated on stories like these, join the newsletter community.

Categories: GTPulse