Card’s Bakery is busy and bustling with a steady flow of customers before 9 a.m. They’re all regulars, explained owner Jennifer Moon.
The bakery, located near Bagot and Queen Streets, is more than a daily stop for locals in need of their morning coffee and muffin. A friendly and familiar greeting starts off each visit. The staff have already poured coffee and prepared for their regulars, which keep many coming back.
If we don’t know you, Moon said, our staff will try to get to know you. It’s a heartwarming approach that the third-generation storeowner maintains – and which makes Card’s Bakery a fixture in the community.
If you haven’t encountered Card’s Bakery, you’ve probably seen their baked goods for sale at CoGro or The Tea Room. During exam time, Principal Woolf orders over 1,000 sugar cookies from Card’s, which he and his wife personally deliver to students studying on-campus and in the libraries.
I decided to sit down with the owner of a bakery so well connected with Queen’s and the local community:
Q: How long have you owned the store? What family history is behind the store?
A: I’ve owned this story for about nine years. My grandmother started the bakery in the late 60s out of our home. Then my mom purchased the business from her and moved it to King and Johnson in the 80s and she owned it for 20 years.
Q: How early do you start baking or prepping the food?
A: We are almost around the clock – there are people here at almost all hours of the day.
Q: Have your staff worked at Card’s for a long time?
A: Dawn would be the employee who has worked here the longest; she worked for my grandmother and mother… She’s been working for Card’s for three generations.
Q: Why did you choose Bagot Street?
A: There was a big fire [at the King and Johnson location] and [the store] burned down. That was right about the time I was purchasing it from my mom. So I figured it would be a good choice to have a clean start and move locations … I decided to open a bigger store, somewhere where there would be retail space for the customers as well as baked goods.
Q: Do you personally do any baking? What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
A: I do during the holidays … I let the girls do [the baking during the year]. My role is to run the business, whether it’s answering or returning calls, taking special orders, paying bills [and] preordering for the next season. I do all the specialty sugar cookies and then I fill in wherever I’m needed. If someone’s off one day, I do whatever they would be doing.
Q: What type of relation do you have with Queen’s?
A: [About] seven years ago, CoGro approached me and they were needing some cookies and wanted something locally made – so I began a relation with them, and it all started with cookies, tea biscuits and muffins. I think when The Tea Room opened a couple of years later, CoGro referred them to me … We started doing sandwiches for [The Tea Room]. I believe this is our third year.
Q: From generation to generation, would you say the business has been run differently?
A: My grandmother’s business was very much a kind of bread, cookie [and] butter tart stop on the way to the cottage … She knew her customers on a first name basis. Many customers now say, ‘hey that was my childhood – stopping at Edith’s bakery.” When my mom moved the business downtown, she knew that she was going to have to secure some downtown clientele; it wasn’t going to be cottage people anymore.
Q: What’s the shop’s specialty?
A: Our specialty is really homemade goods – the way your grandmother baked it: brownies, butter tarts, cookies, tea biscuits [and] muffins.
Q: Are any of the recipes family or handed down?
A: They all come from grandma … We make it exactly the way she did. We’ve added recipes over time, but we don’t change the old ones … I remember making butter tarts with my grandma when I was a kid – the pastry recipes are the same … Every single one of them have been handed down.
Though Kingston may be populated with several Starbucks and Tim Hortons, it’s bakeries with passed-down family recipes that I hope will continue to be a downtown staple.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Card’s Bakery is located at 304 Bagot Street downtown Kingston. For more information please visit: http://www.cardsbakery.ca
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