Downtown Kelowna changed for me when The Bread Company opened its doors. A year of graduate studies in France had changed my relationship with bread. In the four decades since, I’ve gone out of my way to find crusty bread, freshly baked, with a texture that gives my teeth something to sink into. Supermarket bread, even the best of it, never measures up to a hometown bakery.
I knew we were in good hands with Dan and Mike Bronswyk from the first day I sampled their bread. The fifth-generation bakers know all the subtle magic of flours, leavening, liquid and temperature that combine into a slice of heaven on the palate. They know what grains, fruits, nuts, olives or garlic to add to make the dieting bread lover abandon all pretense of cutting back on the staff of life.
And well they should. Baking is the only business they know. Their Web site’s one-paragraph history says they learned the trade from their father and through apprenticeships in Europe. Their father was one of five baker brothers, in a line of baking that extends back to 1730.
That depth of knowledge shows in the breads they bake. I’ve tried them all: ciabatta, multigrain, cranberry pumpkin seed, walnut raisin, garlic, sourdough, whole grain, and whatever special breads they dream up to keep us coming back, like the fig and anise combination we’ve savored the last few days.
We know how lucky we are to live within walking distance of nearly anything we need, and, yes, there are other options for bread buying nearby. But when a flood shut down The Bread Company and led to extensive repairs and renovations, I was as bereft as if half the stores in Kelowna’s core had shuttered their doors. I’ve seen so many other small shops open with a flourish and limp to an end during my regular walks through the neighbourhood. The tarp-covered windows and crude signs did little to reassure me the bakery would survive the long closure, particularly when the promised re-opening was repeatedly postponed.
And then the long-awaited day came. Bread filled the shelves and lined up by the window. Pastries crowded the display cases. The chalked menus once again offered gourmet sandwiches and copious breakfasts. Friendly staff once again called greetings.
My downtown was restored. Bernard is chockablock with boutiques that hold little attraction for a non-shopper like me. They come and they go making barely a ripple on the muddy water of my awareness. Tiny restaurants are interspersed among them, offering an increasingly interesting array of cuisines. So there was never a lack of eateries when The Bread Company was closed.
But for my bread-loving tastes, my favourite bakery was the only bakery. When it opened again, balance was once again restored to my neighbourhood.
The Bread Company is busy again. The brothers and their staff are baking and catering and serving all the people who walk through their doors. My fears they might not open again proved unfounded.
And this gives me hope.