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updated: 5/27/2014 9:11 AM

From New York to Hoffman, engineer opts for baking bread

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  • Chris Wu, left, along with wife Heather, pose with their two daughters. They recently opened Great Harvest Bread Co. in Hoffman Estates.

      Chris Wu, left, along with wife Heather, pose with their two daughters. They recently opened Great Harvest Bread Co. in Hoffman Estates.
    COURTESY OF GREAT HARVEST BREAD

  • Food Network star and "Restaurant: Impossible" host Robert Irvine stopped by the Comcast offices in Naperville and offered a private demo at Pirch restaurant in Oak Brook Center.

      Food Network star and "Restaurant: Impossible" host Robert Irvine stopped by the Comcast offices in Naperville and offered a private demo at Pirch restaurant in Oak Brook Center.
    COURTESY OF COMCAST

  • Food Network star and "Restaurant: Impossible" host Robert Irvine stopped by the Comcast offices in Naperville and offered a private demo at Pirch restaurant in Oak Brook Center.

      Food Network star and "Restaurant: Impossible" host Robert Irvine stopped by the Comcast offices in Naperville and offered a private demo at Pirch restaurant in Oak Brook Center.
    COURTESY OF COMCAST

  • David Hagopian, vice president of operations, left, and Ron Sheble, vice president of finance head Advanced Vehicle Technology Services Inc. in Buffalo Grove.

      David Hagopian, vice president of operations, left, and Ron Sheble, vice president of finance head Advanced Vehicle Technology Services Inc. in Buffalo Grove.

  • Tom Garcia

      Tom Garcia

  • Georgia Fournier

      Georgia Fournier

  • Martha Twaddle

      Martha Twaddle

  • Chantelle A. Porter

      Chantelle A. Porter

  • Mark L. Karno

      Mark L. Karno

 
 

Chris Wu went from helping to construct major buildings in New York to baking bread in Hoffman Estates.

He and his wife Heather opened the Great Harvest Bread Co. in March in Hoffman Estates, a fulfillment of a dream for him. After growing up with relatives who were entrepreneurs in Taiwan, he carried those desires with him while he grew up in Boston.

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"I certainly look back fondly on what we were able to achieve," Wu, 34, said about his later work in New York. "But I had known for quite some time that I would eventually make a transition toward being a small-business owner. I come from a family with a history of entrepreneurial endeavors, I grew up around that mentality, in a sense."

Wu earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering at University of Illinois at Champaign and then worked with a firm in New York. For about 8 years, he worked as a structural engineer, consulting on building design and construction. His projects included the Bank of America Tower, American Airlines terminal at JFK Airport, Madison Square Garden renovation, among others.

But he longed to do something more, to be his own boss and actually to own something, he said.

He and Heather and their two daughters then returned to Illinois in 2012 and settled in the Barrington area. The transition from a major world-class city to a Chicago suburb actually worked well, he said, since it brought them closer to his in-laws. Heather was from Waukegan and having family nearby provided more warmth and closeness, especially for their daughters.

He looked at various options and, since he enjoyed the breads at Great Harvest Bread Co., he and his wife decided to acquire a franchise in Hoffman Estates.

"Great Harvest Bread Co. is a great fit for me as an initial foray into small business ownership first and foremost because I am super passionate about our product lineup," he said. "We have a classic stone mill on-site that we use to mill our own 100 percent whole wheat flour fresh daily. And I firmly believe that is a huge point of difference."

He operates what is called a "freedom franchise" model, which allows him as a local bakery owner to have the freedom to make critical business decisions on how to operate the bakery, he said.

"This allows me to tailor the bakery to the local community's wants and needs and allows it to become a true neighborhood bakery," Wu said. "It's the perfect middle ground between a rigid, regimented traditional franchise setup and a straight up mom-and-pop store."

Like many family businesses, he worked long hours at the beginning. But recently, he started delegating some work to his 14 employees, he said. "So far, it has been great and everything I thought it would be."

Does he miss engineering?

"This has been extremely rewarding," he said. "It gets my hands into the flour and into the dough. Sure, I was involved with building buildings that are standing tall in New York, but this is a more simple achievement. It's a good feeling."

Irvine visits suburbs

Food Network star and "Restaurant: Impossible" host Robert Irvine stopped by the Comcast offices in Naperville and also offered a private demo at Pirch restaurant in Oak Brook Center. He said area restaurants should offer Wi-Fi for guests because if there's no connection, then there's no repeat business. Guests and servers also should use tablets that have the menu. And owners should use technology that texts or calls customers when their tables are ready.

Foley meets with Obama

Mike Foley, CEO of North America Commercial and Regional Chairman of North America for Zurich Insurance Group in Schaumburg, said he met with President Barack Obama and senior administration officials at the White House as part of a delegation of CEOs to discuss the importance of inbound investment in the United States and policies that support foreign direct investment. Foley was one of 11 CEOs invited to the White House for the SelectUSA round-table discussion on investing in the United States. SelectUSA, launched in 2011 by President Obama, is the federal government's first governmentwide approach to attract and retain investment in the United States.

FastTrack

David R. Hagopian, vice president of operations at Buffalo Grove-based Advanced Vehicle Technology Services Inc., said the business continues to grow and "our excitement regarding adoption of natural gas as a clean and low cost vehicle fuel remains." He attended a trade show last week at the DuPage County Fair Grounds sponsored by the Chicago Area Clean Cities organization where he displayed a number of vehicles that his company converted to use natural gas. He also added Ozinga Brothers Inc. as a new client.

Tom Garcia is the new vice president and general manager of the Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Itasca. ... Georgia Fournier is the new sales manager at the DuPage Convention and Visitors Bureau in Oak Brook. ... Beth Drake is the new executive director of Anderson Animal Shelter in South Elgin. ... Nicki Anderson, president and CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, will be rubbing elbows with Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner at the chamber luncheon on June 2.

Lisa Timbo, general manager of the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel, received the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association Ambassador of Hospitality Award. And the hotel was honored as the best hotel over 400 rooms with meeting and event space by Illinois Meetings + Events magazine. ... Hospice and palliative care expert Martha L. Twaddle has contracted with JourneyCare in Barrington as senior vice president of medical excellence and innovation.

Reid E. Simpson is the new senior vice president and chief financial officer at Schaumburg-based Career Education Corp. He replaces Colleen O'Sullivan, who is leaving but will remain available as a consultant through late June. ... Chantelle A. Porter of Wheaton, a senior associate attorney at A. Traub & Associates in Arlington Heights and Lombard, has been elected a member-at-large, and Mark L. Karno, principal of Law Offices of Mark L. Karno & Associates in Aurora and Chicago, has been elected a member to the board of governors of the Illinois State Bar Association for a three-year term.

Allstate agency owner Edward Litke in Highland Park was named a top agent in sales by Northbrook-based Allstate Insurance Co. ... Arlington Heights residents Kathleen and Thomas Durand and their daughter, Madeleine, will open Massage Envy Spa in Mount Prospect at Randhurst Village Shopping Center on June 17. ...

Christopher Allen, a Baxter & Woodman Inc. resident project representative in Crystal Lake earned a professional engineer license from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

M. Robert Weidner III, president and CEO of Metals Service Center Institute in Rolling Meadows, said he's made some changes. Chris Marti is the new vice president of research, technology, safety & executive education and will take on executive education programs and will share responsibility for safety training programs; Monique Kaiserauer was promoted to vice president of training, non-dues revenue and tubular products, taking over Ann Zastrow's training program responsibilities. Ryan Hietpas was promoted to director of web platforms, data analysis & events production. Brittany Reinertsen is the new coordinator of member services and events.

•There's more to business than just the bottom line. We want to tell you about the people that make business work. Send news about people in business to akukec@dailyherald.com. Follow Anna Marie Kukec on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter.

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