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Broken air conditioner renders bread making difficult

Bakeries are hot places to work and even hotter in the summer, but without a functional air conditioning unit, a bakery work site turns from challenging to unbearable.

Great Harvest Bread Company, located at 1701 Allied Lane, is in a really hot spot after its air conditioning quit working on July 8.

Aileen Magnotto, the owner of the bakery, said that this is the first time in her six years of ownership that it has been this hot. The lack of an air conditioner has not only affected the bread baking schedule but also the conditions the bakers are working in.

“It became a fairly dangerous situation for my employees because it was really too hot for them to work in here, so we did have to cancel bake a few times last week,” she said.

Bakers knead dough to make bread to sell to customers. If they don’t make bread, they can’t make the dough they need to pay bills. The breakdown has also affected the local food bank because the bakery donates all of its leftovers.

“Trying to cool the bakery down by opening doors to the outside, and placing fans has been slightly helpful; however I am not looking forward to this week’s weather forecast,” Magnotto said, noting that the National Weather Service is calling for temperatures in the mid-90s for the next few days, rising to near 100 degrees by Sunday.

On Tuesday, the forecast, including high humidity that drives the heat index to 100 degrees, led Charlottesville officials to open cooling shelters for residents who do not have air conditioning in their homes.

Ongoing supply chain issues that have impacted everything from computer chips and cars to chest freezers have also made it difficult to get a new air conditioning unit. The bakery has rented units from companies in Richmond because no local companies have units powerful enough to cool down the space when baking with ovens that run at 400 degrees.

Magnotto doesn’t know when the unit will be replaced with the current supply chain issues.

“We’re kind of at the mercy of the supply chain,” Magnotto said. “‘I’m just so grateful that the community has stood behind me. I’m also grateful to my professional bakers.”

At this point, they’ve done about the best they can in order to serve their patrons.

“They [the customers] really rely on our whole grain breads,” Magnotto said. “I’m trying to cool the place down and then have the doors open and fans going and I’m just very grateful to my crew—they’re pushing through and I’m trying to make it safe for them to do that.”


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