Bakers Journal

Features Profiles
MIXing it up


May 2, 2011
By Tuija Seipell

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Sometimes a name really is an omen. In 2003, when Rose Concepcion and Thuy Kelp opened MIX the Bakery in Vancouver, they knew they had come up with a fitting name for their business, but just how fitting, they would not discover until later.

Sometimes a name really is an omen. In 2003, when Rose Concepcion and Thuy Kelp opened MIX the Bakery in Vancouver, they knew they had come up with a fitting name for their business, but just how fitting, they would not discover until later.

6-MIX-owners-and-staff
MIX owners (top right in orange, Rose Concepcion, and second from top right, Thuy Kelp) and staff at the store.


MIX has found a home in Point Grey Village, an affluent residential area. Nestled in a small shopping district next to the University of British Columbia endowment lands and the university itself, the 2,200-square-foot bakery fits right in. The businesses in the village are mainly small shops and services, making it a good location for MIX.

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“We saw this space and it just felt right immediately,” says Concepcion. “This felt like a real neighbourhood.”

2-MIX-Sales-Counter 

The Bakers Journal interview with Concepcion takes place over lattes at a tiny round outdoor table temporarily moved indoors due to inclement weather. It’s a Thursday afternoon and MIX is hopping. Every one of the six small square indoor tables, each with an embossed “M” in the centre, is taken, as are the four barstools by the window. A mother with a baby in a stroller next to her drinks espresso as she works on her Blackberry. Two women, possibly mother and daughter, are having a chat over soup. A man is reading a newspaper and enjoying a sandwich. A steady flow of customers come in, buying artisan breads, muffins, sandwiches and coffee to take out. The mix of customers consists mainly of regulars who know what they want and are used to getting it here.

MIX is a suitable name for a bakery as there probably isn’t a single thing on offer that doesn’t involve mixing at some point. Concepcion says the name was a natural choice, somehow “just right,” as the location was for the bakery, and the decision to open a bakery was for her. “I always knew I would open a bakery one day,” says Concepcion, a trained pastry chef whose business card titles her “Cake Spinner.” She and Kelp (“Dough Girl” according to her business card), who was on holidays at the time of the interview, worked in food retail together before opening the bakery.

MIX also works as a name because of the variety of products sold: artisan breads, cakes and pastries, in addition to savoury fare, including salads, soups, casseroles and sandwiches. All of MIX’s products are made with butter, not shortening. Certain items are on the menu permanently, while others are available seasonally. New items show up on the menu regularly.

“We are always creating something new,” says Concepcion. “Our customers can go anywhere, but they have chosen to come to us. They buy their everyday breads, they come for lunch, they sit down for a coffee. They expect quality and comfort. They trust us to offer those, and so they are also willing to experiment with us and try something new we’ve put on the menu.” Concepcion says the goal is to keep getting better at what they do and re-earn their customers’ business, rather than try to lure new customers in through advertising or promotions.

The staff, about 12 full time and 12 part time, is also a real mix, a veritable United Nations running the gamut in backgrounds and ages. “We have staff from student to grandparent age and from many nationalities, but the common thing is that they all care,” says the visibly proud Concepcion. “They care about what they make, and about the customers and about each other. We enjoy what we do!”

The mix of retail, wholesale and catering is currently a 40-40-20 split. The wholesale clients are mainly small, individual operators, restaurants, hotels and stores that value the flexibility and small quantities MIX is willing to deliver. However, Concepcion sees the most growth potential in catering, which the bakery began offering in 2005. The largest catering client, and the one with the most additional growth potential, is the university.

Mixing with the surrounding neighbourhood is a natural part of the bakery. Participating in charitable and community events and donating products or time is close to Concepcion’s heart. MIX has participated in the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation gala every year since the bakery opened its doors eight years ago.

This focus on community extends across the world through a fundraiser the bakery started for the WINS Project, a nonprofit group that provides educational opportunities for poor children in Bali. To raise funds, MIX created Karmic Orbs of coconut, flax, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, cranberries and Balinese spices. These yummy treats have been described by a local blog as “little fundraising power balls of raw-food goodness.” Proceeds from the sale of each orb – sold by both MIX and a nearby yoga studio – and all the coins dropped into a collection jar on the bakery’s counter are deposited into a special bank account during fundraising. After last year’s efforts, the cheque MIX wrote for the WINS Project totalled more than $2,000.

“That just shows how just a little effort can make a difference,” says Concepcion. “A lot can be done for those children with $2,000.”

It is reassuring to see that even through the current economic situation, the time-tested mixture of bread, people and caring is working for MIX the Bakery.


Tuija Seipell is a Vancouver-based writer and consultant, and senior writer at a leading pop-culture blog, www.thecoolhunter.net.


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