Small Business Saturday: How free legal services, passion transformed lives at a south St. Louis bakery

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ST. LOUIS – Fred Domke is the proud founder and president of Bridge Bread Bakery, a business with a mission that goes far beyond baking.

“My wife and I moved back to the city not quite 20 years ago and got involved in a bunch of things in the city, including volunteering at a shelter. It was a daytime shelter for the unhoused,” Domke explained. “But we thought after a while that we were doing things that made it easier for people to be homeless, so we wanted to start up a business where we could employ people with no particular background and meet them where they are in terms of what they would do.”

Determined to create lasting change, Domke’s vision became a reality, thanks to the Microenterprise Program developed by Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM).

This program offers legal support and guidance to aspiring entrepreneurs, helping them navigate complex questions such as business incorporation, leasing agreements, and employee relations.

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Legal Services of Eastern Missouri played a pivotal role in Bridge Bread Bakery’s journey. They assisted in drafting essential paperwork and guided Fred through the rigorous process of obtaining a 501(c)(3) tax certification, a significant milestone for any nonprofit organization.

“Legal Services [of Eastern Missouri] was absolutely critical to our success,” he said.

Today, Bridge Bread Bakery has come a long way from its humble beginnings. With the support of Legal Services, Domke now employs eight full-time bakers who work diligently to produce their renowned bread. You can find their products at the Soulard Farmer’s Market and their brick and mortor store on 2639 Cherokee Street in South St. Louis.

On this Small Business Saturday, Domke emphasizes the importance of supporting local enterprises.

“When you shop small, the money comes from somebody in the community, and it goes to somebody, a business that’s in the community who pays workers who are in the community, who pay taxes to the community, who spend their money in the community. And it all goes around and around again,” he said.

If you’d like to learn more about Legal Services and how it can help get your small business idea going, click here or call 314-256-8722.

For a closer look at other St. Louis spots to support for Small Business Saturday and beyond, click here.


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