Bakers Journal

Features Profiles
NO ROMANTIC ILLUSION


October 28, 2008
By Tuija Seipell

Topics

So many things have come together perfectly for Butter Baked Goods in
Vancouver that it is tempting to presume that the little store’s first
year has been an easy ride. What could be more fun than opening a cute
bakery in the friendly residential Dunbar neighbourhood of Vancouver
and baking yummy homemade treats for happy customers?

Vancouver’s Butter Baked Goods meets the daily challenges with a smile

16a
16b
Butter Baked Goods owner Rosie Daykin (Top) showcases the days goods; (above) displays of cookies reflect the down-home charm of Butter’s style. 

So many things have come together perfectly for Butter Baked Goods in Vancouver that it is tempting to presume that the little store’s first year has been an easy ride. What could be more fun than opening a cute bakery in the friendly residential Dunbar neighbourhood of Vancouver and baking yummy homemade treats for happy customers?
According to owner Rosie Daykin, many starry-eyed customers have indeed expressed a desire to open their own Butter in their hometown or neighbourhood, having been seduced by their shopping experience. “I let them keep their romantic illusion, but it’s hard work to make it happen,” she says.

Everything at Butter works together and creates the specific Butter charm. In that charming picture, you could imagine entering an old, weathered wooden summer house on the beach, the kind where generations have summered in carefree, casual affluence. Wind, sun and time have caressed every surface with a soothing patina, and the rosy wallpaper and white doilies were selected by the same fictional grandma who, wearing a starched white apron, has just taken a blueberry pie out of the oven.

Customers have their own individual ideas of what Butter makes them imagine or remember, but most will find themselves thinking of grandma’s kitchen, real orimagined. The sensory harmony at Butter is no accident. Daykin is an interior designer and former owner of an interior design store. Butter’s decor – approachable, nostalgic, unpretentious – is a well-thought-out concept, yet the store does not feel like a “concept” store. It feels as comfortable, “organic” and ever-changing as an old house.
The main colour is a pistachio green and the accent wallpaper is a mix of that green and old-pink roses. The scent of the latest treat out of the oven – perhaps scones or cookies or cakes – wafts from the back room, and cookies and other treats are displayed on various old-style trays and stands. All aspects of the brand – from the store decor and logo to the packaging, website  and business cards – have a hand-made, time-tested charm that exudes quality and care.

Good Karma
The good karma of the neighbourhood and the location might not have hurt either. The 1,000-square-foot space, of which the storefront occupies less than half, has been a bakery for 85 years. Daykin bought the business from its last owner who had owned it for 57 years. “People know this space as a bakery,” says Daykin, “and they have been so welcoming and happy to see us here.”

Daykin is elated by the success of the store, and clearly enjoys what she is doing, but she also knows that the quality of the product is what brings customers back and sustains success, not cute surroundings or even good service. Daykin is not a trained baker but she grew up baking and learned from her mother. “This is a dream come true,” she confesses. “I always wanted to open a bakery.”

Daykin has a support team that is also part of the charm of the business. Her mother, Pixie Porcellato, handles the front of the store, while brother Ray Porcellato bakes cookies and other treats and does the heavy lifting. Both are part owners and, like Daykin, work in the store five days a week. The total number of full-time staff is eight.

Ray Porcellato had previously worked for their father’s lumber business, but when Daykin was opening Butter, the lumber business was slowing down. “Dad suggested I come here to help Rosie and Mom, and I never went back,” he says. He also exudes the customer-friendly attitude that has endeared the shop to the neighbourhood. “One of the nice things about serving customers and being around here is that somewhere else, people could buy a lot of things off you like coffee, or even a house, and still be in a bad mood, but when people walk in here, they are pretty jovial, or become so before they leave,”’ he says. “And the demographic is really cool, too, in that sense that there is no demographic. Kids in a stroller and grandmas with walkers, their eyes get big and they have smiles on their faces.”

Product Quality
The all-important product quality comes from family tradition as well. Everything is made just the way it was made at home: from scratch in small batches with the best ingredients. Daykin started with items she had always made herself from recipes she and her mother had used – bars and cookies, muffins, pies, cupcakes and cakes. She now offers close to 50 different products, but not all at once. Certain items are baked on specific days of the week only, and seasonal items, such as hot-cross buns, are part of the rotating inventory.

What has turned out to be a true best-seller is marshmallows. Not the tiny squishy pillows you buy in large plastic bags but large cubes of sheer taste with no additives, no preservatives, no food colouring, no fat, no wheat, and no dairy – just delicious fluffy treats sold individually in the store. Somewhat smaller ones are also now sold in small, transparent bags in the store, and now also in other stores across Canada. The foray into wholesale started shortly after the store opened when Daykin was approached by Whole Foods, which now carries several Butter products. Other wholesale clients include IGA, Gourmet Warehouse and specialty grocery stores, such as Urban Fare and Stong’s in Vancouver and Pusateri’s in Toronto.

At the time of the interview, Daykin was negotiating a lease of additional space into which to move the expanding marshmallow production. Wholesaling in the U.S. is also in the plans and, in the longer term, possibly opening additional stores.

Looking back at the business’s first year, Daykin is happy. “I’m pretty impressed myself, actually,” she says with a content but exhausted smile. And what, if anything, has been particularly challenging in the first year? “Let’s not kid ourselves,” says Daykin. “It’s all difficult. Some might look at this and think that it appears to have been easy for us, but it is not. It is an enormous amount of work but we are always trying to do it with a smile. And as happy as I am and as fortunate as I think we are, at the same time, no one has handed it to us. We work really hard to do this.” / BJ