Fast forward to today, and the eatery in the Rivertown neighborhood is getting ready to open their second shop in Rochester Hills — their first location outside of the city.
It all started when co-owner and CEO Marc Howland grew frustrated at the lack of healthy alternatives made without bread. As he searched, he found such options were often an afterthought, and he wanted to create a space where bread wasn’t the star of the show.
“I was a varsity running back and sprinter in college. There, I realized what I ate directly impacted my energy levels, my physical wellbeing and even my performance, and bread specifically was the thing that always made me feel tired and bloated, so I tirelessly was seeking out options on the go that were healthy, but without bread. Most restaurants were significantly disappointing by offering sloppy, disintegrating, or flavorless options,” he says.
“Eventually, I was just venting to my wife, fiancé at the time, how there needed to be a place that elevated the breadless alternative from the afterthought to the core product and offered it in a format that was on the go, nutritious and highly accessible to everyone.”
His wife, LaTresha “LC” Howland, who is a co-founder and the chief communication’s officer for Breadless, was supportive of the idea, and the pair onboarded longtime friend and renowned New York chef, Ryan Eli Salter, to manage the menu as a co-founder and chief product officer.
The trio started selling their food at pop-ups at local gyms in 2019 and decided to make the move to open their first storefront in March 2020.
There was “a lot of uncertainty, but what we knew though was that people were always going to need great food, and people loved the offering that we were presenting, so we were going to adapt to the environment to figure out the way we were going to deliver this,” Marc explained.
When they officially opened their brick-and-mortar location, which is designed to resemble the greens they use in their recipes, on E. Jefferson in the spring of 2022, they opened prepared for the pandemic with the option to dine-in, a walk-up window, curbside pick-up, and catering. They also opened to much enthusiasm from the community.
“The day we opened [community members] came here to say, ‘thank you for choosing Detroit for your first location and choosing this neighborhood’ because they didn’t have access to this kind of food,” Salter says.
Fast forward to a year later, and thanks to the hard work of its owners and the support of the surrounding community, the business has grown to employ around 20 people at a competitive wage and with generous employee perks including profit sharing and first dibs for future franchise opportunities.
Breadless offers an extensive 100 percent gluten-free menu of flavorful salads and bowls made with locally sourced, nutrient-rich leafy greens including Swiss chard, turnip greens, and collard greens (the only eatery in the country to do so, according to Marc), alongside warm rice bowls, soups, refreshing cold-pressed juices, housemade chips, and desserts.
But the biggest draw is their breadless sandwiches, which come in nine different and uniquely named styles like the “Chardi B” (named after American rapper, Cardi B, that comes with Boar’s Head sliced chicken, cilantro avocado sauce, pepper jack cheese, tomatoes, sweet pickles, and onions, wrapped in Swiss Chard), and the meat-free “Spicy Chick(pea)” (made with warmed smashed falafel with spicy vegan aioli, pickled turnips, Arabic pickles, tomatoes, and onions, wrapped in turnip and collard greens).
“I was trying different concepts so that people would love to eat this without missing the bread and the reception was pretty positive,” Salter says.
So positive, that the co-founders plan to open their second location next to the Panera Bread across from Rochester Hills High School by the end of the summer.
Nationwide, the trio agrees — and “for everyone to know that we’re a Detroit-founded business,” LC adds. “I want to be a Shinola or Ford, we started here and now we’re nationwide. There’d be a lot of pride with that.”