Dave’s Killer Bread has gained a cult-like following of devoted consumers around the US and Canada, attracting health-conscious shoppers along with those who firmly believe that people deserve second chances in life. Needless to say, Dave’s has become a giant among bread brands in North America.
But if you look at the packaging of this incredibly popular, albeit admittedly niche, grocery store product, you won’t find the full story behind it’s meteoric rise to fame. You see, behind the scenes, Dave’s Killer Bread isn’t merely just your run-of-the-mill baking company. Dave Dahl, the company’s iconic founder, has gone through hell and back to bring his unique, seedy loaves to market. In the process, he’s battled both his inner demons as well as the legal system. Yes, the path to success has been a long and winding one for ol’ Dave. Throughout his journey, he’s encountered numerous speed bumps and obstacles – and for the bulk of that run, it looked as if the odds were firmly stacked against him.
Don’t be fooled by the smiling cartoonified mug that you see on his bread’s packaging, Dahl is a man whose not always made the wisest decisions in life. In fact, back in 2013, he was arrested after allegedly ramming multiple police cruisers after making quite a scene at a Milwaukee, Oregon, residence. But that wasn’t the first time that he had a run-in with the long arm of the law. Throughout his life, Dahl has spent many years in prison as a direct result of his troubles with alcoholism and substance abuse. Fortunately, it appears as if, at this point, Dahl has successfully turned his life around and is now on the ‘straight and narrow’. Not surprisingly, after transforming himself in such a remarkable way, his business and philanthropic ventures have likewise begun to thrive.
In this video, we’ll be giving you the fascinating backstory behind a bread brand that you likely have never given a second thought. If inspirational redemption stories are something that piques your interest, this is one tale that you won’t want to miss.
Facts Verse Presents: Dave Dahl Tells the Real Story Behind Dave’s Killer Bread
Baking Is A Dahl Family Tradition
Dave Dahl grew up in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in his hometown of Portland, Oregon.
In Stumptown, Dave’s family owned and operated a relatively small bakery named NatureBake. As Adventists the Dahl family abstained from things like alcohol, tobacco, and meat. Their health-conscious approach to life naturally led them to make organic bread that was free from GMO ingredients.
While these kinds of healthy loaves are seen on store shelves practically everywhere these days, back in the 1970s, organic branding wasn’t yet as popular as it currently is. Additionally, sourcing ‘clean’ ingredients that were free from chemicals and adulterants was quite difficult.
Just like any other small business, getting the bakery off the ground required a great deal of manpower. As soon as Dave and his siblings were old enough, they began to put in long hours at the bakery to help the family business succeed.
Before finding success in the industry, however, Dave’s life took a bit of a detour. As a young man, he found himself routinely in trouble with the law and even wound up serving out several lengthy prison sentences. After spending a decade and a half in and out of the slammer, Dahl returned to his family’s business with a renewed sense of appreciation for the craft while also having a desire to transform the bakery into the best version of itself that it could possibly be. According to Dave’s Killer Bread’s website, Dave’s brother welcomed him back with arms wide open back in 2005. Around that time, Dave began selling his unique multigrain loaves at the local Portland Farmers Market.
It didn’t take long for the bread to gain quite a following with scrupulous consumers who longed for a healthier alternative to the usual bleached-flower genetically modified loaves they could find at the supermarket. Virtually overnight, Dave’s Killer Bread had become a name that just about everyone in Portland had at least heard of.
Soon enough, the Dahl’s humble baking company was able to move up the ladder so to speak to start stocking supermarket shelves across the nation with their signature ‘natural’ loaves. With that transition, that familiar cartoon depiction of Dave with his mustache and biceps became something that was arguably quite iconic.
A History Of Instability
Dave has always been somewhat of a rebel. While he seems perfectly content merely standing up to the mainstream bread manufacturers these days, when he was younger his rebellious streak got him into a lot of hot water. By the time that he was attending High School, Dave began drinking and doing drugs. While many teens experiment with such things in their formative years, Dahl’s substance abuse only got worse after he dropped out of high school.
That’s when he began using harder drugs such as methamphetamine. In 1987, Dave was arrested for the first time for robbery. He ended up spending time in prison for a handful of other offenses over the following fifteen years. For example, in 1997, he was arrested in a drug bust in Portland. Reportedly, while he was being arrested, he told the cops that they might as well beat him to death as it would make both him and them happy.
In 2013, Dahl met up with a man whom he had met in prison named Christopher Dailey. Dahl shared his booze with him despite the fact that he claimed that he was trying to maintain his sobriety. He also handed him the keys to his car so that he could take a weekend away to work on himself. The following day, Dailey’s body was found in a field.
Dave admits that he made a mistake by giving him the keys to his vehicle and helping him relapse. He told The Ringer in 2018 that he was heartbroken when he learned what had happened to his friend.
That same year, one of Dave’s employees called the police to report that he was having a mental health crisis at his bakery. Apparently, in the months leading up to the incident, Dave’s behavior had grown increasingly erratic leading the people around him to become concerned about his well-being. Eventually, he was convinced to take a sabbatical to take a step back and refocus, but that time away from work may have done him more harm than good.
Accordingly to that 911 call, Dave had been loitering outisde the company striking up conversations with employees while smoking a cigarette, when he noticed a cardboard cutout of himself in the bakery’s store window. Seeing the cardboard facsimile of himself as a symbol of everything that had put him on leave in the first place, Dave became enraged. He then proceeded to burst through the doors and smash the cutout with his fists while simultaneously intimidating the employees that were watching him.
When the police arrived, they approached him and said that they just wanted to talk. Dave took one look at the cops and said no before driving off. The officer didn’t follow him as assaulting a cardboard cutout of yourself isn’t a crime – although it definitely seems to be a fantastic metaphor for something.
Later that year, Police were called once again after Dave had reportedly made some kind of a scene at private residence. After the police arrived, Dave fled the scene in a black Escalade and proceeded to ram into multiple police vehicles head-on. He then fought with officers as they attempted to arrest him, ultimately sending three officers to the hospital.
In October 2014, shortly after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Dave was found guilty “except for insanity” on two counts of 3rd-degree assault and one count of unlawful use of a weapon. The Washington County Judge who presided over his case placed him within the jurisdiction of Oregon’s Psychiatric Security Review Board. In 2015, Dahl was kept on conditional release under the board’s strict supervision. He was additionally put under restrictions that forbid him from driving or visiting bars.
Dave Had To Hit Rock Bottom
While he’s had a few rough patches in his life since then, Dave’s transformation away from darkness began when he was serving his time for that drug bust in the early 2000s. In that same interview with The Ringer that we referenced a couple of minutes ago, Dahl said that before he could begin his healing process, he first had to hit his rock bottom. At the time, he remembers being 38 years old, imprisoned, and desperately suicidal.
In a last-ditch attempt to get help, Dahl submitted a request for assistance to the prison wardens. He then sat back and waited, hoping for the best knowing that he just might be at the end of his rope. Fortunately, the request was received, and not long after the prison’s psychiatrist wrote him a script for antidepressants. While he had yet to have been diagnosed with a mental illness at the time, the medication began to work, resulting in a noticeable change in Dave’s outlook on life as well as his behavior.
While still incarcerated, he started taking drafting classes and learning to play the guitar. Finally, he was beginning to feel as if there was some hope for his future after all. Although he hadn’t found religion in prison like many others have, he did find a new way of living that gave him the strength to put the drugs down and move on with his life.
Now that was before he had his run-ins with the law in 2013, but the ball had been put into motion for Dave to begin making radical changes in his life. Sure, he had a few setbacks after deciding to make those drastic life changes, but he’s never given up that belief that he’s been put on this earth for something greater than just rotting away in prison or some dingy drug den.
Dave Is Committed To Giving Back
In August 2015, Dave’s Killer Bread was bought by Flowers Foods for a whopping $275 million. Dave personally received $33 million in the sale, but he says that he lost a bit of himself in the process.
Even so, he’s remained committed to not wasting all of that cash on himself. He could easily backslide back into his old vices, undoing the years of hardwork and dedication that have helped him maintain his sobriety, but instead, he’s decided to give back as much as he can.
In addition to supporting his community while attending his daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Dahl spends time volunteering with organizations that help previously incarcerated individuals adjust to life on the outside after serving their sentences. He has donated money to many of these organizations as well.
One of these organizations is called Nucleos. They provide education and training to people that have been impacted by the justice system.
In 2016, Dahl started his own organization called Discover African Art. To support the organization, he opened up a flagship showroom in Clackamas, Oregon and later a boutique in Portland. In 2017, the organization contributed to grain shipments that were being sent to a small village in need in Mali.
Dave Dahl may not be a saint, but he’s doing his best to turn his life around and offer others who have been in similar positions as he once was back in his rough-and-tumble, drug-crazed years a second chance at life.
He might only be associated with Dave’s Killer Bread in name-only, but we’ve likely haven’t seen the last of Dave Dahl. Hopefully, he can remain sober and keep having a positive influence on people’s lives.
We’re just about out of time for this video, but we’d love to hear from all of you lovely viewers out there. Are you a fan of Dave’s Killer Bread, and did you know that the company’s founder had such a rocky past? Let us know in the comments, and as always, thanks for watching!