GORE BAY—The New Grain Artisan Bakery and Kitchen is a love story born out of pandemic restrictions.
Andrew Toman and his partner Genevieve Sartor have recently opened their kitchen and location in Gore Bay but Islanders fell in love with their delicious sourdough bread, focaccia and other delights last summer.
“We arrived in Canada and a week later, COVID hit,” said Mr. Toman. They began selling their tasty fare at the farmers’ market in Little Current during the summer of 2020 and are now celebrating their one-year anniversary. “We were offering what people wanted (at the market) and had built up a good customer base by Christmas.”
They’ve started to sell out and quickly outgrew their usual kitchen space. “We were looking for a place to set up an actual business location and found this space in Gore Bay,” she continued. “We’ll be able to provide a bigger offering and can be a part of the community.”
“The bread would sell out quickly at the market and we would deliver twice a week,” Ms. Sartor said. They have a loyal customer base and deliver about 100 loaves of bread Island-wide each week, “even for just a couple of loaves.” On December 24 of last year (Christmas Eve), the couple delivered bread and dark chocolate cakes along with other treats to customers across Manitoulin until 8:30 pm that night. They also put together a special Valentine’s Day menu and then a special Easter brunch menu that they delivered to customers.
New Grain can boast of being the only sourdough bread business on the Island. “One of the cornerstones of the business is our artisan style, natural ingredient oven-baked sourdough as well as other breads,” said Mr. Toman. “We avoid using chemicals in our bread. Most if not all of our products are natural and are not only tasty but can be a benefit to peoples’ health.”
“We are using locally sourced ingredients as much as possible,” added Ms. Sartor. “We’re working with local farms and producers.” These include Grandview Farms for its beef products and Three Forks Farms for its vegetables. New Grain will also cater dinner parties and is developing collaborations with other businesses such as Split Rail Brewery.
The inspiration for the bakery name comes from Ireland’s ancient New Grange site, where a long passage that leads to a quartz-filled chamber was built to line up with the sunrise on the shortest day of the year. In a Facebook post Mr. Toman wrote, “Having visited this site in the past, I’ve come away with a sense of respect for these ancient Irish people, aligning with the stars and laying down a foundation that has stood the test of time. I aim to bring this ethos to my business in my new home on Manitoulin.”
Mr. Toman hails from Northern Ireland and he met Ms. Sartor, who is originally from Guelph, in Dublin, Ireland. She was studying for her Ph.D. at Trinity College at the time. They were introduced by a friend and continued to live in Ireland for another two years before moving to Canada.
Ms. Sarton had a job lined up in Montreal before the pandemic struck. “I’d been away from Canada for the past five years, living in Ireland and Australia. It’s been really exciting coming back to Canada and I’ve found a new appreciation for the country.”
“I really enjoy being here,” agreed Mr. Toman. He formerly made his living as a musician and had some previous experience in breadmaking. “I’ve been taking an online course and doing research but my bread making skills are very much self learned.”
In their first nights at their new location, they spent time testing the oven and new environment. “Dough is a living culture,” explained Mr. Toman. “It takes time and seasons. There is a lot of precision to making sourdough bread. It’s a learning process.” Bread dough contains live cultures like beer and wine do. “Our breads are made of natural ingredients and go through a natural fermentation process.” There’s also no waste; they don’t throw anything out.
The couple said the business is starting slowly but they do have lots of plans, including some they will roll out this summer. One thing that won’t change is that New Grain will continue to deliver all over the Island. “There are so many elders and others that require that support,” they said. They also supply their goods to businesses, for example sweet treats to Loco Beanz and bread to The Island Jar. “Now customers can come in and see the operation but they need to be prepared to wait. It takes two days for the bread to be ready.”
“Because of the pandemic, Manitoulin Island has been such a relief for us,” shared Mr. Toman. “It’s the place we want to live in and spend our lives in. We want to really become part of the community. The response so far has been incredible.”
New Grain Artisan Bakery and Kitchen is located on Water Street in downtown Gore Bay. You can order online at newgrain.ca.