Bakery moves on to the next generation
by Stacy Dunn
Buns & Things Bakery Owner Bill DeBlois says his shop still makes cookies, cakes and pies the same home-style way they did 30 years ago. He took over the long-standing business from his parents Rob and Elaine back in January.
“It will be three years in August since I came back to PEI to get involved in the business,” he said, noting he previously worked over 10 years at a classic car sales business in Ontario. “The bakery was a big part of my parents’ life and my life as I was growing up.”
Buns & Things sells 400 to 500 loaves of bread daily, plus many other baked goods. Eighty percent of their business is walk-ins, while 20 percent is sold to hotels and restaurants.
About the staff
About 30 people work at the bakery. About 18 work full time and 12 work part time. One baker started out greasing bread pans in 1987 with Bun King, which was later purchased by the DeBlois family.
“We have six bakers and two chefs in our take-home meal/deli department,” says Bill. “We also have retail staff in the front of the store, packagers who fill the store and restaurant/hotel orders, plus two delivery drivers.”
“We are a pretty upbeat bunch of people, considering we work in a small building that gets hot in the summer. Everybody works close together and does a lot of tasks at once. We are patient and respectful of each other because we all know things have to get done.”
Bill said the turnover is low at the bakery. Several staff have been with the store six, 10 or 12 years. “We have a great team. Students come back to us in the spring and summer, which works out well, because April to September is our busiest time of the year. Our permanent staff work 12 months of the year.”
The right attitude
“People who work here should show an interest in food, baking, or cooking. They have to know food safety practices around preparation and sanitization. Handling food is a huge responsibility and it’s good to see people who take it seriously.”
“We are not a full-scale commercial bakery or a two-person bake shop. Buns & Things is somewhere in between. We train our own staff to follow our own processes and business goals.
“Training starts immediately when someone is hired. Baking recipes must be followed closely; if you add too much salt to a bread recipe, it won’t taste good.”
“We are different from other bakeries in that we don’t have overnight shifts. The bakers of breads and rolls are in at 5 am Monday through Thursday. They come in at 4 am Friday to Sunday and are usually done by noon on the weekends.”
Front-store staff and the delivery driver start at 6 am. Other staff come in at 7 am or 8 am. The busiest time in the store is between 10 am and 2 pm, and Friday is busiest day.
How jobs are advertised
The Job Bank, social media and the bakery’s digital outdoor sign are used to advertise open positions. Hiring is ongoing throughout the year.
“Our interviews are the least stressful you will find. I usually ask why they want to work at Buns & Things. I look for a genuine interest in baking and food. I want to get a sense of their personality, and if they are a good fit for our bakery.”
No one makes minimum wage here. Wages are set depending on the job. There is a health benefits plan, and staff have an in-house savings plan. Employees choose how much they want to save and a cheque is given to them in late November.
Every year, Buns & Things receives numerous requests to donate buns and baked goods to fund-raisers. The bakery works closely with the Upper Room and Soup Kitchen in Charlottetown, breakfast programs at schools, and the QEH Foundation.
“There is no wasted food in this place. If the Upper Room can’t use the breads, we turn it into bread crumbs for stuffing. We are pretty proud of that.”
Buns & Things has huge mixers and refrigerators for its breads. Bill said some technology has changed in recent years to keep up with the greater volume of food orders. “In the future, we may change the technology used in inventory and billing.”