Rob Kabeary, founder and co-owner of Bread bakery in Durango, whose personality and bakery were widely known in Durango, died Saturday. He was 61 years old.
Kabeary moved to Durango in 2001 and took over what was then called Old Town Bake Shop. He renamed it Bread. The bakery became a mainstay in Durango.
According to friends and family, Kabeary suffered a stroke Nov. 29 and was taken by Flight for Life helicopter to the intensive care unit at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver, where he died Saturday night.
“Baking, for him, was an expression of love,” said Kabeary’s brother, Kyle Kabeary. “That was the way he said, ‘I love you.’”
Kabeary was born April 23, 1957, in St. Petersburg, Florida. Growing up, the family moved from New York to Virginia to Michigan because of his father’s work at American Chicle Co. He has a sister, Reed.
Kabeary excelled as an athlete, his friends and family said. His affinity for sports would later translate to cycling and long-distance running.
“He was a jock,” said his longtime friend and business partner Rob Johnson, “but with an artistic awareness.”
After a few stints in college, Kabeary caught the travel bug. He dedicated his life to travel and baking.
Jeffe Morehart, co-owner of Bread, said Kabeary’s love of baking started at an early age, and likely was influenced by his time working at a food co-op in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.
Kabeary had gained experience in baking while working at Mrs. London’s Bakery in Saratoga Springs, New York, as well as other bakeries in Nantucket and Atlanta.
“He was moving toward the culinary arts,” Johnson said. “That’s what he was going to do.”
Kabeary even learned about baking by studying in France.
“He had a very adventurous apprenticeship,” said his brother, Kyle.
Approaching his late 30s, Kabeary’s friends and family asked him what he wanted to do with his life. The answer was easy: Kabeary wanted to start his own bakery.
Kabeary, wanting to move to the West, took a road trip from Taos, New Mexico, to British Columbia, searching for the right town to start his first bakery.
Though he stopped in Durango during that trip, Kabeary ultimately settled on Sun Valley, Idaho, where he opened Bigwood Bread, which went on to become a successful endeavor.
It was at this time that Morehart met Kabeary.
“He brought bread up to the ski lodge where I was working, and it was delicious,” Morehart said. “Once I figured out where he was, I went and investigated.”
Morehart said she, too, wanted to be a baker. Eventually, she took a job at Bigwood Bread with Kabeary, where she worked on and off for two years before she moved back to Durango in 1997.
Morehart, a Durango native, went to work at Old Town Bake Shop, which opened in winter 1998, but kept in touch with Kabeary in case the owners of Old Town Bake Shop were interested in selling.
A few years later, the stars aligned: Kabeary sold Bigwood Bread and took the helm in Durango.
“That was when we started building what is Bread,” Morehart said. “We’ve been lucky from the beginning to have that community support. People have just been in to it even when none of us knew what we were doing.”
Kabeary was well-known in Durango for more than the bakery.
“He was such a magnetic personality,” Johnson said.
Morehart said Kabeary’s love of baking likely stemmed from the importance he placed on community.
“Provision was really important to him – that’s how he expressed himself, and it’s the way he got out into the community was to give people food,” Morehart said.
Kabeary was an avid traveler. He spent time in Lesotho, Africa, teaching people to bake through the Peace Corps and volunteered at an orphanage in Honduras.
But Morehart said Durango’s mix of nature, arts, culture and people always drew him back to Southwest Colorado.
“He liked movement, but this was his permanent parking spot,” she said.
Kabeary is survived by his partner of more than 20 years, Nanette Cresto, and their daughter, Sailor, 14.
An initial service in Kabeary’s honor will be held for family and friends at Bread’s yet-to-open downtown café. A second and larger celebration of his life will take place sometime in spring or early summer.