Natalie Helms, “The Bread Lady,” holds a freshly baked sourdough loaf on Oct 4, 2023. Photo courtesy of Natalie Helms

Cordovans can’t get enough of Natalie Helms’ fresh baked breads. Helms, who has quickly come to be known locally as “The Bread Lady,” began selling milled wheat bread at the Saturday Market this summer and has since expanded to include sourdoughs, bagels and flavored loaves.  

Helms and her husband Elijah moved to Cordova this year from Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska where Elijah was a preacher at a small congregation. The family came to Cordova along with their four young children with the hopes of starting a Baptist church in the area. Natalie is originally from North Carolina, and is herself the daughter of a preacher.  

She said that she and Elijah felt compelled to minister in rural communities such as those found throughout Alaska.  

“We love small town life,” she said of Cordova. “Everyone has been very welcoming.”  

Helms said that when she first began baking, she had no intention of it becoming a booming business. She started by making homemade bread just for her family.  

“I just thought it’d be something to pass the time at home,” she said of the hobby that has now become a burgeoning business.  


In between homeschooling her children and supporting Elijah’s ministry, she began exploring the wonders of breadmaking. At the beginning, Helms sourced freshly milled Alaskan wheat from a small business in Palmer for the loaves.  

“I wanted it to be good quality food for our family and just something new to try,” she said. “And then I became very interested in it.”  

As her interest grew, Helms decided to post on the local classifieds page to see if anyone in town would share in an order of the milled wheat and resulting loaves if she had extra. The response was positive, and Helms’ community baking journey began.  

In the spring, Helms was contacted by Christa Hoover, organizer of the Saturday Market, who invited her to set up a table at the once-a-month event in the Masonic building.  

At her first Saturday Market, Helms learned that another bread seller, Emma Hamberger, was about to move out of Cordova. Hamberger had been selling sourdough loaves successfully both at the market and on the classifieds page. With Hamberger departing, there was a hole in the bread market.  

Helms said she reached out to Hamberger to get advice on the logistics of creating enough bread to fill orders. Though she at first found it daunting, Helms decided to take the opportunity to try her own hand at sourdough. 

Josie and Samuel Helms stand behind a table full of fresh baked bread at the Cordova Saturday Market on Oct. 21, 2023. Photo courtesy of Natalie Helms

“I did not know the first thing about sourdough until we moved here,” she said. Helms did a trial run of sourdough loaves using an heirloom starter given to her by Sandy Van Dyke. “I added five sourdough loaves to my table at the next market and they sold immediately. It went wild from there.”  

As a novice bread baker, Helms has so far taken an approach that is guided by curiosity and patience. She recently attempted a milled wheat and sourdough mix, as well as a double chocolate loaf: “Sometimes it doesn’t work, but I’m doing my research and trying to improve upon it.” 

Since her first markets this summer, Helms has been steadily baking bread to feed the town averaging about 10 loaves a day during the week. Her fresh loaves have quickly gained a loyal customer base and several fans on social media.  

Helms said a friend tagged her in a meme posted on the @curdova.memes Instagram referring to her locally baked bread, “…they said you know you’re popular when you’ve made it onto the meme page!”  

Helms has embraced the demand by creating a Facebook page for the small business: “I named it ‘The Bread Lady’ because everyone was coming up to me or my husband in town asking ‘are you the bread lady?’ So, I decided to make it the official name.”  

She said she uses roughly 240 pounds of flour, now purchased locally from Nichols, to fill her list of orders.  

“I fell in love with it,” she said of her small business. “It drives me to the brink of insanity and keeps me sane at the same time.”  

When she’s not hosting her table at the monthly Saturday Market, Helms is delivering bread herself around town.  

“I’ve met so many people through this,” she said of the in-person deliveries. “It’s been huge.” Helms went on to explain how her bread business and their family ministry has a natural harmony, “We have people coming to our church now that I met through the bread.”  

According to Helms she doesn’t turn a big profit, but finds value in making and sharing the loaves nonetheless.  

“It’s amazing to me the joy you can give someone through just a loaf of bread,” she said. 

Helms is currently working on several new offerings that bread lovers in Cordova can look forward to including cheddar jalapeno bagels and seasonal pumpkin flavored loaves.