After 30 Years, Empire Baking is Still Rising

North Texas has never been known for its bread, except when bread is the oft-used metaphor for money.

And, thanks to the Ewings, Dallas is known for its wealth.

North Texas Native Americans made their versions of bread, then came Mrs. Baird’s, which has been making and selling bread to the masses since 1908. 

Go south of Dallas, and you’ll see Czech immigrants’ influence on bread with kolaches. Other than that, you could say that up until 30 years ago, Dallas was a bread desert.

Enter Meaders and Robert Ozorow, founders of Empire Baking, Dallas’ first and still largest bakery to make and sell artisanal bread made by hand using the purest, cleanest ingredients.

Neither bakers nor entrepreneurs, the Ozorows, he from New York, she from Abilene, noticed a lack of wholesome yet hearty bread, the kind Robert ate growing up in New York.

Meaders’ mother emphasized clean, wholesome, preservative-free food before it was “not a thing,” so she values the importance of healthy eating. In 1993, there weren’t a lot of such ingredients as non-bromated flour available here, but she sourced and used them in every loaf from the start.

Empire Baking’s original bakeshop was in The Shops of Highland Park, where Forget Me Not is now and La Duni was before. All 12 original bread varieties were baked there.

Realizing that retail sales alone wouldn’t generate enough revenue to stay afloat, Meaders reached out to top chefs to sell her bread for their award-winning restaurants.

“We don’t buy bread,” one said. “We give it away.”

Undeterred, she kept selling, eventually landing Hyatt Regency Dallas, the Adolphus, Parigi, and City Café as clients.

Since then, Empire Baking has grown, adding more bread, pastries, cookies, sandwiches, and salads to the menu.

She’s also providing bread to some of Dallas’ top restaurants, including Carbone and Sadelle’s, two concepts from New York, a city that knows good bread, and Mendocino Farms, a sandwich shop.

In the 30 years Empire Baking has been making bread from scratch, no mixes, and all hand-kneaded by artisans, the demand for bread without preservatives has sky rocketed, and more artisanal bakeries have opened in Dallas.

Empire Baking has two retail locations, one in Inwood Village and the other in a small storefront in front of its bakeshop in an inauspicious building off University Boulevard.

Though most sales are to hotels, restaurants, and other larger accounts, the retail element is an important part of the business.

Meaders uses the word “community” a lot in our interview.

Empire’s Inwood Village store is a community place where customers have been coming for years to pick up a quick lunch or order sandwich and dessert trays for everything from weddings to funerals. The staff knows the regulars and welcomes the onslaught of post-pandemic newcomers.

“I love this job, and if I won the lottery tomorrow,” Meaders said, “I’d still do this.”

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Kersten Rettig

Kersten Rettig is the only DFW Food/Travel writer with luxury hospitality leadership experience and a former restaurant owner, employee, and chief marketing officer. Kersten's worked on the inside and has the insight and experience to tell the stories to the outside. She's a Park Cities resident, mom, wife and a decent cook. Follow her on Instagram @KerstenEats.

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