The Conversation Series – Part one – food on the table

In a continuing series on food, at home and abroad, we talk to the food and drink celebrities of Victoria B.C. Canada.

Small bakers in a big unfriendly marketplace

Mark Engels, owner-partner and baker of Bubby Roses Bakery in Victoria is angry and frustrated… but in a good way.

Because when you own one of a handful of good bakeries in a city of over 200,000 hungry souls, every little thing you do can make a big difference.
Like keeping good food on your neighbors table and in their pantry…
And according to Mark… It’s challenging.

“Let’s put it this way… we are often at the mercy of a finicky and misinformed media…” Mark quips.

“Media”, I query? “What does the media have to do with this?”

Judging by Mark’s reaction, I have just tossed a cinder into the black powder box.

“I was on the radio this week…” Mark volunteers…
“And…?”, I cower behind a big bowl of Vegetarian Chili in one very crowded Bubby Rose bakery.

CFAX… with Joe Easingwood and the gang… with a variety of the cities bakers… and we were talking about the scene, you know… prices, the challenges, inflation… and someone asks me about Butter Tarts… Butter tarts no less. Yea, we make them…” I introject.
“Butter tarts?”, you are losing me quickly Mark.
Mark continued unabated, “And one of the media types in the studio blurts out… Thrifty’s makes Butter Tarts you know!

Ah. The penny drops. Hard. On my foot. Damn ten pound penny.

Thrifty Foods is one of the many appendages of the Sobey Food empire… and

Thrifty Foods is in many local corporate partnership – strategic alliances… the media behemoth that owns CFAX is one of them.

Hence the cheesy product placement.

What leads to our point. When you are a teeny-weeny independent baker trying to put food on tables and stay in business, the last thing you need are media dork-sticks dropping product placement bombs in the middle of, what was up to that point, a meaningful conversation on being the little guy trying to serve the community while those much bigger players on the block are trying to squash you.

As the bakery continues to hum louder, the stinging irony is not lost on either of us.

According to Mark, we shouldn’t write off the little guy yet. Without small bakeries, like Bubby Roses, Victoria residents could well be unwrapping their goodies just shipped in from Ontario, or worse… the U.S. of A
And right now and as of late, bakeries all over the place are feeling the pinch of higher prices… significantly higher prices on staples like flour, rice and vegetable oils… etc.
And the other scary point is – if we in food rich Canada are feeling the sting of inflation, Mark and I can only imagine what life is like in the developing nations.
Scary thoughts indeed.
In a continuing series on the food scene here and out there, we will talk to the little pieces in the puzzle – the players that keep the food on your table.

Head over to Part Two in this series.