Gluten-free specialist delves into retail with Toronto café
Written by Brian Hartz
Read original article here.
TORONTO – June 22 dawned darkly for Toronto as 24,000 city workers went on strike, but Organic Oven made some much-needed good news as it welcomed customers to its new North York café during a grand opening complete with a blessing and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Although it had been operating since May 13, owner Peachy Yutangco chose a picture-perfect summer day to officially launch the retail arm of the Brampton, Ont.-based maker of high-quality, organic, gluten-free baked goods, many of which are also dairy-free and vegan.
Yutangco, a baker who came to Canada from the Philippines about 14 years ago, founded Organic Oven in 2001. Over the past seven years, the company has had success as a wholesaler, providing its breads, cakes, pies, cookies, bagels, muffins and other delicacies to supermarkets as well as specialty and gourmet grocers such as Whole Foods, the Big Carrot and Noah’s Natural Foods.
During that time, the company has attracted attention from organizations such as the Canadian Celiac Association, whose Toronto chapter president, Mary Culver, was on hand for the grand opening and helped cut the ribbon. Also cutting the ribbon was Yutangco’s daughter, Precious, who will run the Organic Oven café while Peachy continues to oversee production and wholesale.
“We were doing fine as a distributor,” says Yutangco, “but the stores didn’t have enough room for all our products. So, essentially it was a space issue [that led to the retail outlet]. Sometimes we’d be lucky enough to have an entire shelf to ourselves at smaller specialty stores, but we really wanted a location where we could sell our entire range.”
That claim is backed up by shelf after shelf stocked with the company’s breads and buns, which include: brown rice bread, raisin carrot loaf, cornbread, banana bread, lemon loaf, plain rice and multigrain rice bread, hot dog buns, rice buns and pizza crusts; bagels: multigrain, cinnamon raisin and cheese; cupcakes: carrot cake and chocolate; muffins: apple cinnamon, organic banana, organic banana chocolate chip, chocolate, organic carrot, vegan chocolate and vegan wild blueberry, and cookies: plain shortbread, chocolate chip, vegan quinoa plain, almond shortbread, vegan quinoa chocolate chip, ginger snaps and gluten-free, vegan shortbread. All products are made at the Brampton bakery except for the muffins.
Yutangco, a chemical engineer by training, seems content to let her daughter be the face of the new café, as she is more interested in the creation of new products and perfection of existing ones. She also seems to have found her niche after years of toiling in odd jobs as a single mother and newcomer to Canada.
“I’ve always had a talent for converting [traditional] recipes,” she says. “And I thought it would be better to specialize in these kinds of products rather than try to appeal to everyone.”
Yutangco says Organic Oven used to focus on whole wheat-, spelt-, rye- and kamut-based goods, but that the company has gradually moved toward gluten-free, wheat-free, egg-free, dairy-free, vegan, sugar-free and other specialty items, mainly because of customer demand. In 2005, the business moved from its original location on Rambler Drive to a new facility on Melanie Crescent, providing an ideal opportunity to switch to a completely gluten-free operation.
“We want to make things that people want and that make them feel good,” Yutangco says.