By Megan Stulberg.
Note: This is an article created by one of our writers in November 2013 for Fat Girl Food Squad, so please read with this in mind! To view the original post, click here.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Amanda Somerville, the owner of a new vegan bakery in Toronto. Through Being Cool Vegan Baking Co. only opened its doors for the first time a little over a month ago. In the following Q&A Amanda and I discuss how TBC Vegan is doing so far, her daily routine at the bakery and her experience as a solo business owner.
P.S. Like all good budding businesses, TBC’s killing it on the social media front so be sure to follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Daily photo updates of boston cream doughnuts, people. You’re missing out otherwise.
Q – When did TBC Vegan Baking Co. open?
Amanda: We’ve been open for 4 weeks as of this Sunday (October 27th).
Q – Since its opening, would you say that the bakery has been successful?
Amanda: Yeah, I think so! It’s been slower during the week vs. the weekends but I think that has a lot to do with being in retail on a growing strip on Bloor Street. (The bakery is located at 1277 Bloor St. W, seconds from Lansdowne Station)
Q – Yeah, this definitely seems like a really up-and-coming area! Why did you decide on opening a vegan bakery? Are you a vegan yourself?
Amanda: Yeah, I’m a vegan. I thought that it was a market that needed to be filled that wasn’t already being filled in this city. I travel a lot to the States, or I did before we opened, and they have a different way of handling veganism down there. Toronto can do vegan, yeah, but in some ways Toronto is about five years behind in the “healthy” vegan stage Toronto doesn’t offer as many options.
Q – Would you say that TBC’s vegan products are more healthy then?
Amanda: No, not exactly. It’s all comfort food, based on traditional recipes that have been veganized.
Q – How long have you been a vegan?
Amanda: Not too long, but I have been a vegetarian for a long time. I’ve been a vegetarian for about 8 years and a vegan for 3 years. It took me a long time (to transition). I was like, “I’m going to be vegan, I’m going to do this!” but then I’d get drunk and eat cheese pizza so many times.
Q – Sounds about right! Okay, so how’d you get started?
Amanda: I used to work at Sadie’s diner and that was the first place I supplied. I started making cupcakes for them while I was working there, and then it kind of just grew from there! I started supplying for some similar places and it kind of got to a point where after I got back from traveling to Asia for a bit, I was like, you know what, I should get serious about this.
Q – Was it hard to start up? When did you decide to open TBC Vegan?
Amanda: Yeah, it was. I got the space in May 2013. I started looking for a place last September though, so it’s been about a year of me being serious about this.
Q – What does a typical day look like for you at work? What time do you have to be here every morning?
Amanda: I start working about 2 or 3 hours before we open. I’m in the kitchen until about 2pm, and from then until 7pm I work behind the counter.
Q – Are you by yourself all day, or do you have employees that help you?
Amanda: I have employees. I have kitchen staff in the morning, as well as counter staff, and then pretty much I’m here by myself for the rest of the day.
Q – Personally, what’s your favourite product that TBC sells?
Amanda: Pretzels, easily. I’m more of a savoury person but they’re still a little sweet. We sell each one with a little pack of mustard too.
Q – Yum! What are your plans for TBC’s future?
Amanda: Eventually I would like to put in some seating, but renovations have to happen before that because of licensing purposes so that will take a while. In the next couple of months, we’re going to start selling sandwiches at lunch as well as soups.
Q – Are you working towards something with a small restaurant feel then?
Amanda: Well, we’re listed as retail and sell grocery items, so we’ll probably stick with that. We offer hot foods, ready-to-go foods and frozen foods. I’d like to base the space off of a traditional Italian bakery or something like that. Ideally I’d love to get a few tables going…we have such good coffee and I feel like it gets overlooked.
[Brief interruption as a customer asks Amanda if she will accept debit]
Q – Do you plan on getting a debit machine soon?
Amanda: I’m not sure. I was going to, but then I switched banks yesterday, so I’m glad that I didn’t. I think in the future yes, but one thing at a time. I’m a solo business owner so it’s a lot for one person to do.
Q – Did you study business or something similar in school?
Amanda: Nope! I went to film school.
Q – Is there a secret as to how you make your vegan products taste “normal”?
Amanda: A lot of it is based on trial-and-error…and making these things a million times!
Q – Are you able to resist snacking on the job when you’re surrounding by all of this?
Amanda: When we first opened I would eat a pizza bun every day, but now I’m usually too busy to even think about it. Also when you’re running a store, it’s like it’s you’re either making money or you’re feeding yourself. Like, I could eat this tart, or I could get $3.50 for it and the business could make money.
Q – What do you do when you’re not here?
Amanda: I walk home, I walk my dog, and I go to bed.
Q – Are you here 7 days a week?
Amanda: We’re closed Mondays, so I work shorter days then. I’m still here 7 days a week though.
Q – Wow. Are you planning on taking a break anytime soon?
Amanda: I’m going to a wolf sanctuary on November 18th!
Q – What does that entail?
Amanda: It’s in Halliburton, Ontario. I’ve only ever researched it…a ton though, because I’ve wanted to go for a long time. There are wolves, in this sanctuary, and you get to go hang out with these wolves. I’m going to drive up. My dad lives in Collingwood so I’m going to sleep there. I’m really excited!
Q – Will you have to close TBC while you’re gone, or can your staff run it without you for a bit?
Amanda: I wish I had the money to leave my staff right now. I would. My staff is great. Especially the girls in the kitchen, they’re awesome! I took a half day last Tuesday and I didn’t even worry. I slept in, it was so nice. I’m really, really lucky…they’re awesome.
Photos by Alexandra Courts.