Bakers Journal

Features Profiles
Keeping it simple


October 31, 2011
By Brandi Cowen


Topics

Over the past 12 years, Stella’s Café & Bakery has been quietly conquering Winnipeg, one neighbourhood at a time.

pg19_StellasEmployees  
Stella’s employees serve up a variety of European pastries, as well as soups and sandwiches.


 

Over the past 12 years, Stella’s Café & Bakery has been quietly conquering Winnipeg, one neighbourhood at a time.

Founded in 1999 by brothers Tore and Tomas Sohlberg, and their wives, Lehla and Anneen, Stella’s Café & Bakery is built on a simple principle: healthy food, prepared fresh every day. Winnipeggers have embraced the philosophy as much as they have the food. Over the years, Stella’s has expanded from one location on Osborne Street to six locations throughout the city, including an outlet that opened last month at the Winnipeg International Airport.

These days Tore and Lehla are at the helm; Tomas and Anneen sold their interest in the company in 2005. A 24/7 bakery in back of the Sherbrook Street storefront now keeps shelves at all locations stocked with the breads and baked goodies that Stella’s is known for.

“I think people are recognizing that they want more than just the typical Wonder Bread solution,” says Grant Anderson, director for Stella’s.

Anderson says customers tend to gravitate to multigrain and sourdough breads. On weekends, Stella’s sells a shallot and asiago sourdough and a blue cheese walnut sourdough in addition to its standard offering. A little bit of Stella’s history is baked into each loaf of sourdough that leaves the Sherbrook Street kitchen – Tore and Tomas’ father, Thorleif, supplied the sourdough recipe as well as the starter.

“It’s still the original barm that’s being used, so it’s got remnants of the very first time it was made in it,” Anderson says.

On the pastry side, Stella’s danish, hazelnut croissants and chocolatines all sell well. Scandinavian treats, including te-birkes – croissant dough rolled in poppy seeds – and Norwegian skole bolle – sweet buns filled with custard and rolled in icing sugar icing and coconut – are also customer favourites.

Rave reviews and word of mouth, rather than advertising, have fuelled Stella’s slow but steady growth. Anderson says the plan is to eventually expand outside Winnipeg, ideally starting with smaller local markets  before graduating to larger western markets, such as Vancouver.

“We’re just trying to use a combination of business savvy and experience and market locations where we feel that we would be best suited,” Anderson says.

He’s quick to add that finding the right neighbourhood for a new location is key.

“We really like to be in areas where there’s a possibility of foot traffic, of cycling traffic. We want people to happen upon us, as opposed to always making us a destination.” As Anderson explains, the goal is to “bring Stella’s to the market, not try to bring the market to Stella’s.”