Damascus Bakery Inc.
In 1930, Hassan Halaby founded a small bakery in Brooklyn Heights. Specializing in Middle Eastern breads, Hassan named the business Damascus Bakery Inc. (Damascus) after his hometown in Syria. He was passionate about his work, a characteristic that shone through in the business. His Syrian pita bread was immensely popular throughout the ethnic neighborhood and eventually, his homegrown recipes would bring the company into the national spotlight.
Hassan retired in the mid-1960s, selling half the bakery to his son and the other to his son-in-law, Anthony Mafoud. Anthony had a keen eye for business and was determined to take Damascus to the next level. In the years since, the bakery has grown significantly and now serves retailers and restaurateurs across the country. Anthony’s sons, Edward and David, have since taken over. The co-owner brothers have taken the business even further, bringing new efficiency and value through innovation.
“When our father took over the business, there was a huge revolution happening in dietary awareness, the Pritikin diet,” says Edward Mafoud, president of Damascus. “Pita and flatbreads became popular because they were lighter and lower in carbohydrates than the breads available in the markets at the time. Everyone was looking at eating lighter.”
The Pritkin diet was only the beginning of a business that carefully monitors consumer trends to gauge the market. “We supply breads to food service customers, which make up 75 percent of our business,” says Edward. “We customize our breads to meet different demographics. We supply to Chick-fil-A, Costco and Starbucks in conjunction with their customers’ demand for tasty but light and healthy wrap sandwiches. We provide flatbread pizza crusts to Applebee’s and Olive Garden in response to their demand for signature flatbread crusts.”
The other 25 percent of the business is comprised of retail products. Damascus supplies grocers in the local markets of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The team also caters to consumer trends in these markets. “We formulate bread for the times,” Edward explains. “People want to eat healthier and do not want to compromise on taste. We believe we have the best flatbreads in the world and our products meet the needs of customers.” The company’s retail products are branded under Damascus.
Innovation is the driving force behind Damascus. “We are always striving to stay abreast of consumer eating patterns,” says Edward. “Non-GMO is on our radar, as are other trends. We are always tweaking our formulations, as well. We apply product development to ride the wave of the latest demands. Our newest product is a flat pizza crust made with a higher degree of fermentation. It offers the consumer a richer experience in bread, with greater flavor. As people focus more on products that are sustainable, we have geared our practices, products and packages to meet those demands.”
In more than 80 years of business, Damascus has been evolving constantly to meet customer demands and keep up with competitors. Aside from a highly adaptive product line, the team has updated the processing component of the business, as well. Edward and David opened a second production facility in Newark, N.J., in fall 2013. Altogether, the business has 150,000 square feet of space to bake and take care of the business end of things. Both facilities are state-of-the-art and house a variety of efficient equipment. The brothers recently invested in new equipment to make products flatter, boosting efficiency so the company can pump out more products hour after hour.
While the production aspect is important, Damascus also maintains key relationships with customers and suppliers. “We buy our flour from millers that are committed to forging tight partnerships with their customers,” Edward notes. “Our whole wheat flour comes from Amish country in Pennsylvania. They still incorporate an Old Stone Mill in the production of the flour. We also source several organic flours from reliable, high quality sources. We buy flax seeds and chia seeds from local growers and millers. We also use a lot of canola oil and olive oil, a healthy alternative to other types of oil.”
The brothers strive to operate with integrity. Whether working with suppliers or customers, Damascus operates on firm principles as a family business. “We spent our entire lives in this business,” Edward explains. “We grew up with dough. We measure success through our ability to drive revenue and build our profit line, but that is in conjunction with customer demand and satisfaction. Our mission is: ‘To bake the bread together.’ That includes our employees, our community, our customers and our suppliers.”
With a highly adaptive business structure, Damascus is poised to continue growing. The business has established a niche in giving customers what they want, a difficult feat for a bread producer. Edward and David continue to build upon a solid foundation and family legacy. The duo’s leadership and experience will carry Damascus Bakery Inc. into the next generation of quality baked products.