At the time, the couple, parents of six mostly grown children, operated several Subway shops. They decided to get out of the franchise agreement so they could start their own company.
"I have a minor in food and nutrition and my husband has a master's and got his undergraduate degree in finance and business," said Colleen Worthington. "It was a natural move for us."
To do it, though, they had to get more education. Colleen attended the American Institute of Baking in Kansas, while her husband attended the San Francisco Baking Institute. "We wanted to learn everything their was about baking great bread."
They started with just a few hearth-baked breads including Asiago cheese and a French country sourdough. Six months later, the cafe began serving sandwiches. Croissants, paninis and pastries which now number more than 40 followed.
Today, there are 20 Kneaders Cafes in Utah and five in Idaho, Arizona and Colorado. A new store is planned for San Antonio, Texas in 2014. Some of the stores are company-owned, while others are franchises.
The company has around 1,800 employees and each year uses 2 million pounds of specialty bread flour made at the Lehi Roller Mill.
Not long ago, the Worthingtons decided it was time to go back to the beginning and put some attention into the tiny Orem store that started it all.
When Allen's Super Save next door closed, the company purchased the property and constructed a new building "from scratch," said Worthington.
It officially opened Monday, the company's 16th anniversary, with the first 100 people getting a free serving of French Toast, the company's popular breakfast item.
The turkey bacon avocado on focaccia remains the most popular sandwich, made with fresh-baked bread and turkey that's been slow-roast at each store.
"We serve comfort food," Worthington said. "People tell us it's just like going home to grandma's."
Named the 2013 Utah Valley Business of the Year, by the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce, Kneaders also has been recognized nationally for its future growth potential. Restaurant Business Magazine listed the company on its "Future 50" list; while Technomic included in the "150 Fast Casual Sales Growth" list.
Worthington said the company is always working on new products. In January, customers will find rosemary potato, garlic cheddar and raisin walnut breads. Cooks are currently testing a cranberry walnut loaf for next Christmas.
But the real secret to Kneaders success, said Worthginton, "is to give people what they want."
And everyone wants fresh baked bread.
Kneaders Bakery and Cafe locations in Salt Lake County
Salt Lake City • 28 S. State Street, (City Creek); 801-428-3051.
Draper • 177 E. 13800 South, 801-838-7700.
Midvale • 742 E Ft. Union Blvd.; 801-563-1991.
West Jordan • 7713 S. Jordan Landing Blvd.; 801-282-0025.
Riverton • 5083 W. 13400 South; 801-253-1060.
South Jordan • 962 W. South Jordan Prkwy; 801-446-0888.
West Valley City • 2642 High Commons Way, 801-456-5390.