Bonjour Bakery Relocates for the Long Term in Old Strathcona
Edmonton’s Bonjour Bakery has planned for a long future in Old Strathcona with the opening of a purpose-built space on Whyte Avenue.
Yvan Chartrand has been operating Bonjour Bakery since 2009, renting space in an 80-year-old building along the busy stretch of 99 Street and 87 Avenue NW. But after his son Kenny joined the company in 2017 in the role of head baker, Chartrand started exploring real estate options that would provide more stability.
“Looking at the future, I thought for him, if I wanted to retire, and he wanted to take over, I’m young enough that I can still make a move to help, so the timing was right,” said Chartrand.
It was important for Chartrand to stay in the area, and when he exhausted the possibilities of finding an existing building in the neighbourhood that would suit the bakery’s needs, he purchased land five blocks south at 99 Street and 82 Avenue NW.
“Being on Whyte Avenue is a dream,” said Chartrand. “My mother is from the Peace River region in northern Alberta and when I was a kid, I would hear about Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue. So being able to build a new building on Whyte is quite special.”
The land purchase went through in January 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic ground everything to a halt. For a time, Chartrand did not know if construction would move forward. “I put a foot on the brake pedal because I didn’t know which way things were going to go,” he said. “Restaurants were struggling and our wholesale business collapsed. So we would decide (whether to build) based on our sales.”
Fortunately, bakeries were permitted to continue operating throughout the pandemic. “Surprisingly for us, our sales stayed quite stable,” Chartrand said. “People still needed to eat.”
Last year, when he could see the pandemic waning, Chartrand finally initiated plans for the building. The one-storey, nearly 3,000-square-foot bakery opened for business on Feb. 1. The exterior offers a European flair, but the red paint is a nod to the many brick buildings on the street.
While the amount of space is nearly identical to the space Bonjour used to rent, the configuration is better for customers and staff. The retail area has doubled to accommodate more people, and Chartrand will be travelling to Montreal in the spring to source more specialty crisps, olives, spreads, and mustards to stock on the shelves (being careful to not compete too directly with K & K Foodliner across the avenue). Chartrand is also excited about the open concept that allows customers a full view of the production area.
“You can see the mill where we mill the flour, you can see the oven, the mixing,” said Chartrand. “People need to see how their food is made. I don’t have any secrets. Some places put up a wall because they don’t want you to see what’s in the back, but I’m the complete opposite. Who is making it, how it is made, it’s all part of the experience.”
This extends to the lineage of the flour he uses for the pain paysanne, made from heritage red fife wheat. He sources the grain to grind in-house from a farm near Bonnyville. “I can tell them where the grain is from, which field, who harvested it,” said Chartrand. “One day I hope to be able to say this for all of the flour I use.”
The new bakery will enable Chartrand to enhance some of Bonjour’s offerings over the next few months, but he intends to stay true to the bakery’s roots. “We will still focus on what we like doing and what we’re good at: bread, croissants, and that type of dough,” said Chartrand. “We will go more into pastries with some tarts, but we are not a patisserie.”
In early April, the bakery will also offer cold sandwiches. Some will be pre-made for people to grab and go, but the majority will be made to order at the cheese counter. “The sandwiches will be made from our bread and the cheeses we carry,” said Chartrand. “We will have a daily sandwich. It will be very European, like sandwich shops in Paris.”
Currently, Bonjour Bakery is open 8am to 4pm, Wednesday through Saturday. Soon, Chartrand will be extending hours, likely adding Tuesdays, opening later on Thursdays and Fridays, and in the summer, adding Sundays.
Even with minor shifts, Bonjour’s longevity can be attributed to Chartrand’s firm principles, which breed patron loyalty.
“Personally, I don’t sell anything that I don’t eat,” said Chartrand. “I couldn’t sell something that my heart is not in. Your customers will see it.”
- Yelo’d has re-opened in Old Strathcona in a new location at the Dominion Hotel, 10324 82 Avenue.
- Jeff Senger’s new butchery Modest Meats opens this week, a few doors up from High Dough. It is located at 7345 104 Street.
- Manchester Square is really filling up – Western Sandwich Company’s standalone location (they also have a stall at Bountiful Farmers’ Market) opens on March 7. Find them at 10712 124 Street.
- Mukja K-Street Food has taken over It Dog’s location (8621 109 Street). Their soft opening will take place on March 8.
- Preston’s in the Coast Edmonton re-opened as of March 1, and is being run by A Capella Catering.
- NAIT’s Chef in Residence Program resumes with Calgary-based Connie DeSousa and John Jackson from Charcut, among other restaurants. They are hosting a Chef in Residence lunch and dinner on March 16. Tickets start at $28.
- Edmonton’s International Beer Fest returns to the Edmonton Convention Centre, March 24-25, 2023. Tickets start at $27.53 for general admission, with sampling tickets at an additional cost.
- March is the month of food lists in Edmonton, starting with Edify’s Best Restaurants. I’m stoked that Fu’s Repair Shop and Kasey Ramen were recognized among the best new restaurants.
- The Tomato’s Best 100 Things to Eat and Drink also came out, with a dish from Uccellino topping the list.
- And though we published it back in October, this is as good of a time as any to remind those looking for recommendations to check out Edmonton Food Faves. Linda and I put it together, and I think it stands up pretty well to the above two lists.
- Twyla paid a visit to Zula Kitchen and Wine Bar, a newly-opened restaurant in Glenora from the folks behind Sofra.
- It’s always great to see local businesses collaborating. In the most recent case, Kind Ice Cream teamed up with Beb’s Bagels to create the *Almost* Everything Bagel ice cream flavour.
- Edify previews Downtown Dining Week, which begins March 15.
- Some restaurants were hoping for more support from the Alberta budget released last week.
- Uncle Brian’s Food Company has been temporarily closed by Alberta Health Services due to health-related violations.
- Congratulations to Karen Anderson on her new cookbook Eat Alberta First.
What I Ate
- We picked up dinner from our neighbouhood XO Bistro on Friday. Their fusion pho beef dip was tasty and hit the spot.
Vermicelli bowl and pho beef dip from XO Bistro