Kawartha Wholesale Bakery: Local business has been enduring success story
On a good day, if you who live behind the Lindsay Square Mall, you’ll be greeted by the smell of cinnamon and fresh bread, and Jeff Strybosch is glad his company is responsible.
While the bakery might look small from the outside, behind the scenes is a mixture of kitchen and factory, with delicious delicacies produced by the truckload. When the Advocate visited recently, there were too many racks to count filled with loaves, pastries and buns. One of the bakers was racing against a machine capable of making about 9,000 buns an hour, throwing them swiftly into a wooden tub of cornmeal next to him.
The original and long-time owner of Kawartha Wholesale Bakery & Deli, Strybosch was kind of forced into the business alongside his three brothers. His mother and father, Heather and Peter Strybosch, opened a different bakery, Peter’s Bun Stop, on Hwy. 36 in Lindsay back in 1980.
Starting as a 12-year-old, Jeff and his brothers worked in the bakery on weekends. The business stuck with Jeff in particular, and now in his office he has caricature drawings of his parents. In 1984 they retired from the business and sold it to two of the other brothers, although it closed long ago.
Meanwhile, the bakery we know today used to be a franchise bakery called Bun Master. According to Jeff Strybosch, the original owner ended up selling the place at a loss after buying the building and the franchise. It wasn’t an immediate turnaround success when Strybosch took over in 2001; he had to borrow $130,000 in his first year from his parents to stay afloat.
“We were growing about 35 per cent a year the first few years. But it literally took four or five before I really saw any light,” he said.
One of the bakery’s many ovens has a carousel with eight different shelves that are constantly turning. Strybosch said when staff bake dinner rolls or hamburger buns in it, they make 112 dozen at a time. (That’s 1,344 to save you some math.) That doesn’t account for the few hundred dozen butter tarts and other specialties they make every day.
The day at the bakery begins at three in the morning, when baker Kyle Lowen arrives. Staff have prepared the buns so they can rest in a cooler overnight, then Kyle will pull them out before the crack of dawn to get them rising. Strybosch explained they can’t sit in the cooler for too long “because then what happens is the loaves of bread get air bubbles.”
Before Strybosch opened the bakery he was a doughnut-maker for 15 years. Ten of them he spent in Pickering making the doughnuts for three different Country Style outlets. The Country Style location in Lindsay (where Eggsmart is now) used to be operated by Dean Tzountzouris, and Strybosch would occasionally work for him, too. Today, Strybosch has four decades of experience in the food industry despite being “still relatively young” at 53, and he has his parents to thank for getting him into the business as a preteen.
In 2001 when Strybosch opened, Loblaws had also opened with a bakery of their own. Only seven years later, Food Basics and Staples were built, diverting more traffic onto Kent Street West rather than Commerce Road where Strybosch’s bakery is. In recent years, a new competitor, Mickaël Durand, has set up shop. In fact, several years ago, Durand worked for Strybosch before going off on his own.
Strybosch said that apart from being pleasant and efficient with customers, a big part of his success is “what you put into the community you get back.” He sees a lot of requests from local groups holding fundraisers, barbecues, dinners and other events.
Strybosch’s office is loaded with awards and certificates of recognition for his contributions, including making pizzas for the athletes in the Kids of Steel triathlon, and cooking all the turkeys and mashed potatoes for St. John Paul II Elementary School’s community Christmas lunch for the kids and staff. Contributions from the bakery have also gone to the Milk Run and the Salvation Army, and for years it has given away colourful Christmas bread at the Santa Claus Parade. Local cartoonist Kevin Frank referred to the bread in a newspaper comic strip that is framed and hanging in Strybosch’s office.
Kawartha Wholesale Bakery & Deli has 20 employees and uses about five tons of flour a week.
Some might say this business has become the best thing since sliced bread.