John Dale moved to P.E.I. from Alberta a few years ago and discovered a new passion, baking bread. He started out selling it at the Cardigan Farmers Market on Saturday mornings before opening his own business, Breadworks, in Charlottetown on Great George Street, between the Atlantic Technology Centre and DAVIDsTEA.
©HEATHER TAWEEL/THE GUARDIAN
Loves it so much he opens his own shop in Charlottetown
A Charlottetown man is carving out a new business opportunity for himself in retirement.
Following a lifetime working his way up the ladder in the public works department in Alberta, John Dale and his wife, Sharon decided to move to P.E.I. a few years ago.
It was here that John Dale developed a passion for making bread. First, he sold it as a vendor at the Cardigan Farmers Market in the summer.
Then he moved to Charlottetown where he opened Breadworks, a tiny bakery on Great George Street. He's relied mostly on word of mouth to get things going. Dale's shop is tucked away, down an alley between the Atlantic Technology Centre and DAVIDs TEA.
"I wondered where I was going to get my bread,'' Dale says in describing how simple the business idea came to him. "I decided I was going to try making bread. I was baking bread for about three years when I went looking for a winter spot (to sell it).''
That's when he moved to Charlottetown and opened Breadworks. He took some bread baking courses at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont, with master baker Jeffrey Hamelman.
He now supplies businesses in the area with bread, such as Terra Rouge, Receiver Coffee, Balderston's, Kettle Black as well as farmers markets in Cardigan, Stratford and Covehead.
"It sort of took on a life of its own. People seemed to enjoy (my) bread. It's not about making money. When you find something you like to do you want to keep it going. But I sure didn't realize how much work it is,'' Dale said with a laugh, noting that making bread has been physically demanding, requiring him to spend eight to 12 hours on his feet.
His bread is all hand made in Charlottetown with organic flour and seeds. Dale says if P.E.I. ingredients are available that's what he uses. His products do not contain additives. Sharon helps with deliveries "and putting up with me talking non-stop about bread''.
Dale has one employee at the moment, Sam Quinn, who is a graduate of the culinary college. He hopes to have more employees this summer.
"It's old fashioned bread. It's not the bread your grandmother used to make. It's the bread your great-great grandmother used to make.''
He says business has been good with lots of walk-in clients.
Peter Rukavina, of Charlottetown, stumbled upon the bakery one day by accident and has been making weekly stops there ever since.
"I love the bread. I love the quality. I love the fact that it is organic,'' said Rukavina. "John's heart and soul is literally in every loaf and he's got some good people working with him. What's not to like?''
While buying local can sometimes be more expensive than shopping at the big chain stores, Rukavina says bakeries like Breadworks offer a level of customer service not found with those big retailers.
"Being able to look your baker in the eyes is important to me because (my family) eats a lot of bread. Being able to talk to him about what goes into it, what the difference between varieties is.
"I buy my potatoes at the farmers market every week. I like the fact I can talk to farmers about the fact there is more than one type of potato, for example. I feel the same way about John. If I can have that relationship with all my food I think I'm in a pretty good place.''
Dale is quick to point out he's not the only one making good bread in Charlottetown. He just hopes to carve out a little spot for himself, doing what he loves in a province he now calls home.
"It's a passion. You've got to love bread to do this. I just enjoy doing it.''