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Let’s Eat: Eating is about experience, not just food

Well known for their take-and-bake goods, the Bakeshop on Boundary is coming up on its sixth anniversary.

Emily and Parker Smith, the couple behind the Bakeshop on Boundary, met while apprenticing at the Caribou restaurant in Thunder Bay. After getting married, they moved to southern Ontario in 2008, furthering their careers and gaining experience in “a bunch of bakery stuff,” says Emily.

The family decided to move back to Thunder Bay after the birth of their second child. Emily was thrilled to be back: “I grew up out here in Neebing, on a small beef farm,” she says. While Parker worked in the city, Emily took care of the kids and started the Bakeshop on Boundary in 2016.

At first, she sold products through Thunder Oak Cheese Farm and tried to get a feel for what people in Thunder Bay wanted. The Smiths found that Thunder Bay hankered for the more rustic: “carrot cakes, cookies, loaves - which is what I grew up on,” Emily says.

The Bakeshop on Boundary sold their baked goods through the online market Superior Seasons and several retail locations around town, but it was when the pandemic hit that their take-and-bake goods - frozen croissants and cinnamon rolls - took centre stage.

“It became a comfort thing for folks,” Emily says. “It’s a way for people to get that fresh cafe-feel in their own homes.”

The frozen goodies are ready to bake after defrosting, and the cinnamon rolls come with a little tub of icing. The regular butter croissants are popular, but the pain au chocolate (chocolate croissants) have become the Bakeshop’s signature item.

“People are leaning towards an experiential kind of food product,” Emily says. “People are doing it with their kids, their partners, and people are baking on their own to remember their trips to France. People tell me, ‘It’s reminiscent of growing up in Quebec,’ or ‘it’s reminiscent of my trip to Paris!’”

Parker, who started his career in pastries, makes all the croissants and danishes. Emily says all of their rustic artisanal loaves are made the traditional way with long fermentation periods and preferments, resulting in bread that’s a little lower on the glycemic index than commercially-produced bread. “We do small batches; only 20 loaves at the most per batch,” she adds. “They are good, hearty breads!”

The latest big addition to the business is the retail store on 920 Boundary Drive, which opened in October last year. Open three days a week from Wednesday to Friday, the store offers all the goodies sold at retail locations around town, plus many fresh goods exclusive to the store on Boundary Drive. “The selection is wider - tons of squares, little carrot cakes, fresh danishes, ham and cheese croissants,” Emily says.

Despite the rural location, most customers come from the city, she says. “We get regulars coming all the way from Current River,” she says. “The drive is nice and people are looking for things to do, places to be. So it’s a little something to do when things are limited,” she explains.

The Bakeshop on Boundary takes pride in sourcing local products whenever they can. While a lot of speciality items have to be imported from France or Belgium, there is also a lot to choose from locally. Brule Creek rye flour is a staple, and the Bakeshop gets their eggs from Aidan’s Devilish Farm Fresh Eggs, run by a young entrepreneur and farmer in the community.

“He’s a high school student with an egg operation,” she explains. “He took classes from me when I was teaching kids’ cooking classes. He is an incredible young gentleman who has an egg farm operation. He’s the one I deal with, he takes care of the chickens and all the rest. He has managed to supply us with a phenomenal amount of eggs. He’s also at Fresco’s deli.”

With the Bakeshop firmly established, Parker has been able to make the family business his full time job for the last two years, and they now have two employees. About 10 retail stores in town, such as Dawson General Store and Brent Park Store carry their products, and three restaurants and cafes (Up Shot Coffeehouse, Bight Restaurant and Daytona’s) serve their baked goods.

The Bakeshop on Boundary has been everything Emily hoped it would be, and more. “It doesn’t feel like a job at all. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done. I feel so fortunate to be able to bake for a living, and be connected with so many people,” she says.

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