Business and Operations
Winnipeg’s Sleepy Owl Bread now part of Social Enterprise Diversity Foods
June 16, 2023 By Daniel McInture-Ridd, The Leaf
Winnipeg – Sleepy Owl Bread has been a staple bakery in Winnipeg’s West End for years. When news of their closing broke in May 2022, you would be forgiven for not believing it, seeing as they reopened just a few months later.
Michel Saltel is the new head Boulangere (baker) at Sleepy Owl, which is something he says he never would have imagined happening. While he has previous restaurant experience, he says he’s very new to baking.
“I didn’t really bake until the pandemic,” Saltel says. “I was on CERB for one or two months and I was bored… I saw everyone making sourdough on Instagram and I was like: ‘that looks easy enough’ and it wasn’t. I failed a number of times, but that’s what really drove me, because I kept failing at it.”
While the bakery did close and reopen under new ownership, they promised to remain true to the original recipes that were so well-loved in their first iteration. The bakery offers the same fan favorite breads and pastries, along with a whole host of new items that Saltel and his team have added to the menu.
The community response to the reopening has been positive, even though a lot of people in the community were nervous, according to Saltel.
“They said we weren’t going to be the same, and they were right,” says Saltel. “But I think we have the ambition to be the same, create the same products but also try to be better and try to do better things for the environment, and the local community.”
Part of why Saltel was so excited to run and keep Sleepy Owl alive is so that the surrounding community continues to have access to their high-quality, local, but still affordable loaves. Saltel and his team format their own yeast in-house to ensure there are no added chemicals and that the product is as simple as it is good.
“Getting bread from a place like this, you’re looking at [for a rustic loaf] just saltwater and flour,” says Saltel. “Everything’s handmade local and with care. It won’t last as long as a wonderbread but if you’re looking for different flavour profiles there’s nothing that compares to fresh bread.
After a few months open again, Saltel and the Sleepy Owl team are going to start providing their services to farmers markets and festivals around the city this summer.
Sleepy Owl is now part of Diversity Foods, a social enterprise that also runs Elements Restaurant and Fort Whyte Alive. Their main goals as an organization is to provide high-quality food, while also holding up their values of sustainability, local economic development and community.
That community aspect is already paying off for them, as they’ve already been collaborating with businesses close by, and are gearing up for the Moto Social event at the end of May with their take on pigs in a blanket, hogs (like a motorcycle) in a blanket.
Sleepy Owl is encouraging people who haven’t been there since the reopening to come out and give them a try. Saltel says they’re always open to feedback. Even if you’ve never been to either version of the bakery, good local bread is always worth checking out. Find them, on Wall Street, just south of St. Matthews.
Daniel McInture-Ridd is Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for The Leaf.
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