Local Bread Bandit Steals Durango's Heart (and Hunger)
Perfect. Conditions were all too perfect for Tom Gauthier’s scheme. He had cased the building and knew its every weakness or bulwark. He’d cased the 18th and Main Avenue neighborhood, with its mix of schools, banks, library, and shops. All he needed now was the perfect team to help him pull off a heist sure to be immortalized in Durango history.
Naturally, he would be the Maestro — the conductor who plotted and coordinated all the operation’s many moving parts. But he was going to need others. A safecracker, for one. And a Speed Jeeves for the getaway drive. Maybe a Joe Bang for demolitions. Perhaps a Houdini for daring escapes. If his scheme succeeded, they’d all be rolling in dough.
Or, more accurately, they’d all be rolling out dough. Bread dough, specifically. “I love bread! I love it! It’s my favorite treat; just bread and butter,” Tom croons.
See, Tom’s plan was to heist from his childhood a fantasy to run a deli serving up fantastic sandwiches on fresh baked bread.
A Fresh Idea
In 2022, he bought the building on 18th and Main and opened Tom’s Deli in November. He and the staff were thoroughly overwhelmed by the public support and curiosity. “Just the starting of it, the craziness, and the amount of customers…I never expected that. Just that amount of people was unbelievable that they came and supported me, you know. That was awesome!” Tom exclaims, eyes wide with awe.
Then, the typical winter doldrums set in. “That was perfect!” he notes. He goes on to explain how the quick surge followed by the downtime allowed him to assess operations and figure out better workflows before spring and summer brought the crowds back.
Tom already knew his way around the world of subs, cheesesteaks, po’ boys, Cubanos, Reubens, tortas, bocadillos, and Bánh Mì. Back in Quebec, his parents ran a couple sandwich franchises. As a result, Tom developed a slight obsession for scrumptious ingredients stacked between slices of bread.
The absolute best sandwich in the world? A ham and butter sandwich on a fresh baguette, AKA the jambon beurre. “It’s just so simple and that’s why I love it,” he says.
But Tom did not want a fast-food franchise. He wanted an eatery focused on fresh and affordable. As he puts it, “I didn’t like the idea of franchise or the idea of those mass-produced foods that they just try to make as easy as possible. I understand why that works because otherwise for the owner, you have to be so present. It’s like a lifestyle.”
Pictured above: 1.) Bicyclists “roll” up on Tom’s Deli over Thanksgiving weekend 2023. 2.) Tom’s crusty, crackly, golden brown breads fresh out of the oven. 3.) Locals loaf about inside Tom’s Deli.
Just One More Heist
After the deli’s opening boom quieted, Tom knew his first heist had been a success — he’d nabbed his childhood fantasy and brought it into reality. But there was yet another heist he’d need to pull off. Namely: taking the “Best Durango Deli” title. He could not rest until his sandwiches filled the top podium spots.
He brooded over how to serve freshness, quality, and consistency—all with excellent service. To achieve those benchmarks, he would have to strengthen his deli team and their workflows. “Having really good systems save the day. I can make a really good sandwich, but can the other twenty people on my team do that?” Tom explains.
Training. Teamwork. Mastering a complex, challenging system. Tom saw firsthand the fruits of these combined factors as a college student racing mountain bikes for Fort Lewis College. As a team, the riders took home a national title. Tom felt confident he could incorporate these concepts into his business practices especially with one of his teammates, Molly McPherson, already onboard as his business partner. “She’s really reliable,” Tom says, noting the relief he feels just knowing she is there to help lead the way.
In heist team terms, Molly is the Pocket Ace, the only person as smart as or smarter than the Maestro. The person who somehow anticipates and intercepts the unforeseeable snafus.
A Key Player
Tom’s new heist team also had a unique player the world had likely never seen in any of its past brushes with bandits. Check all the cast lists, but odds are good you’ll never find Curbside Composter on the Inception, Ocean’s, Italian Job, or Snatch rosters. Nonetheless, having Table to Farm Compost on Tom’s team was already producing payoffs.
“That’s honestly been reducing my actual waste I think by half,” Tom says. Onion peels, inedible veggie stalks, stale bread – it all goes to the tote. Uneaten leftovers from customers also go into the tote. With all that food waste diverted, Tom noticed that his staff only had to empty the deli’s trash cans once per day or less. Producing less trash meant Tom could cut his municipal trash pickup service down to once per week.
The perks of composting did not stop there. Tom points out, “When you see what goes into the compost, you have a much better overview of your business.” He goes on to explain that seeing in one week a massive load of lettuce go into the tote made him question whether he was sourcing that veggie from the best possible option. Or, was he wasting money on bad lettuce? Were there scraps not being implemented into recipes that could contribute unique flavors or textures?
His behaviors around waste are not the only ones impacted. Tom sees many of his employees alter their behaviors once they’ve learned about composting and how diverting food waste from landfills benefits the environment. For instance, he has seen some employees switch from disposable water bottles to reusable canteens.
“That makes me feel a lot better. I feel pride when I’m training the employees to compost. It comes back to the education. [Not all people] know what composting is. Sustainable living isn’t in their lifestyle. But this is important. This is our future.”
Looking into that future, Tom is excited about upcoming changes to the menu in Summer 2024. New, intriguing flavors. New breads. He hopes to soon sell whole loaves of his beloved bread. For the present, Tom has proved his powers as a mastermind. There can be no half-baked schemes when Tom is clearly bread for success.
To learn more about Tom’s Deli, visit online or better yet, in person while hungry at 1802 Main Ave. To learn more about commercial composting services, contact Grady Turner at 970-601-3113 or email@example.com.