Last summer, a member of the Seattle Police Department sent a distressed email to the Jewish Federation. “This may seem unimportant, but I was told that the company in Federal Way that had been baking Brenner Bros Rye Bread (Breadgarden) has gone out of business,” he wrote. “I have not been able to find anyone in the Seattle area that bakes anything close to Brenner Bros Zissel Rye.” Could we help him locate any other decent rye bread?
Luckily, a brother always helps a brother. When Breadgarden closed, Schwartz Brothers acquired the Brenner Bros recipes and rights to the name.
“I feel like I have a personal connection to the Brenners,” Schwartz Brothers Bakery CEO Lindsey Schwartz says. In the 1980s and ’90s, Joe Brenner worked at the Schwartz Brothers bakery in Rainier Square, and the legendary Yetta Brenner was a hostess at the Schwartzes’ original Daniel’s Broiler in Bellevue.
In a way, Schwartz is paying it forward. In 1970, when the actual Schwartz brothers — Lindsey’s father Bill and late uncle John — planted a steak house in the wide-open land of Bellevue (“There were horses and cows on the other side of the fence,” Lindsey recalls), it was their uncle, industrial park developer Jack Benaroya, who provided the space and partnered with them. “When Jack Benaroya opened developments, the restaurants went in,” Schwartz says.
The Schwartz empire expanded into bakery, fine dining, Italian, and seafood. One day, a young guy named Howard Schultz brought them on to provide pastries for his new coffee shops. “That sounded like a nice little account of 10 coffee shops,” Schwartz says. “We weren’t looking to be in the bakery business. And of course, Starbucks became Starbucks.”
Lindsey Schwartz has spent his life in the business and became president in 2003. Lindsey’s brothers, Daniel and Derrick, are also company leaders. He has steered the company to focus on the bakery, which now supplies pastries to area supermarkets, and a single restaurant concept, Daniel’s Broiler, which just opened its fourth location at the Hyatt Regency Seattle. The airy space has an extensive plant-based menu for vegetarian diners, an adjacent whiskey bar, and historic photographs of Seattle on the walls, along with an original painting of the Seattle fire by his wife, Molly. Schwartz notes that the next generation is coming up: His nephews are waiters at Daniel’s in Bellevue.
“You have to love what you do, or it will make you crazy,” Schwartz says. Trends come and go, the economy changes, and competition is fierce.
“There are so many things out of your control,” he says. But he takes his family’s ethic to heart. “The one thing you can control is
how you treat people in good times and tough times, and how you establish a culture.”