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Nurturing a Family Legacy, One Loaf at a Time

Updated: Dec 13, 2023



“Matija was my great-grandfather — this mythic figure who brought the family over from Slovenia. He had a farm and a general store, raised seven kids, and took care of people in his town. I’m named after him, and it’s a lot of pressure, but I use the family name for the bakery because I want to live up to that pressure,” said Matt Swint, owner of Matija Breads, a wholesale bakery. Matija provides fresh, artisanal bread and rolls every morning to many of Columbus favorites such as Katalina’s and Ray Ray’s Hog Pit.


Swint was born in Cleveland, a city with a robust Central and Eastern European population. “Part of what drew me to bread is my family. Grandma would always have these giant, fresh loaves on the table, and we’d be so excited to grab some bread in the morning. At holidays my family makes all these specialty dishes, and they’re always bready and doughy. For fun, we’d make homemade pizzas with thick crust and just a smear of sauce and parmesan, and we’d fight over the crispy corner pieces. My brother and I grew up in Columbus, but the rest of my family is in Cleveland, so baking was a way of staying connected to the culture," Swint said.


"The amount of support ECDI offers for free or at massively discounted prices is incredible. My business would have been cost-prohibitive without the Food Fort.”

His foray into fresh bread began with a food truck over nine years ago but quickly abandoned the concept. "I loved the idea of a food truck, but the reality was hard because I had this old truck that tried to kill me a lot. Every time I made money, I had to put it into repairs for the truck. My customers, co-workers, friends, and neighbors just wanted the bread anyway. When the truck died, it felt like a sign to do what I think I secretly wanted to do all along: focus on baking,” he said.

Swint makes Matija bread, by hand, out of ECDI’s Food Fort kitchen. They do true old-world European artisanal baking. “It takes a long time to do things on purpose,” he says. “Not a lot of wholesale bakeries do that. The wholesale business incentivizes pushing products out quickly, but often at the cost of flavor and texture. At that point, it stops being about food and becomes producing an item. I make sure this bread goes out to customers daily, as fresh food.”

As one of the first ECDI's Food Fort clients, Swint was the first to get into the kitchen. "ECDI

has been supportive from the beginning, and that's a big deal. I tell my workers that cooking’s the easy part. The business part is the tricky thing, so having ECDI has been key. Otherwise, Matija Breads would just be a really expensive hobby. The amount of support ECDI offers for free or at massively discounted prices is incredible. When you get busy, you put blinders on, so it’s nice that ECDI and the Food Fort people wave a big flag in our faces and let us know how they can help. My business would have been cost-prohibitive without the Food Fort,” he said.

It's not just the Food Fort's services Swint appreciates, but the other business owners as well. "ECDI helps immigrants from India, Mexico, Kenya, and Japan open food businesses with the Food Fort. To have this comradery with these people I might not have met otherwise is just awesome. I'm lucky to have them as peers. At the end of the day, we're all goofy food people," he said.

Now Swint is working with ECDI to get funding to pay for a space of his own. He plans to introduce new baked goods and possibly even offer Matija at retail directly to the public. “For now, I just want to focus on the bread. Maybe in a few years, when my back starts to give out from this, I’ll be happy to do more marketing and let the kids take care of the hard stuff,” he laughs.






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