‘Iconic’ Nanaimo Bakery that employed homeless people is closing due to losses

'Iconic' Nanaimo Bakery that employed homeless people is closing due to losses

There’s sadness in Nanaimo, as an iconic shop there prepares to close its doors, after 30 years of feeding the community.

For nearly 30 years a wooden sandwich board has gone up outside the Nanaimo Bakery at the start of every day, and its locally famous baking has become a daily slice of life for customers like Richard Donahue.

“The food is really good and it’s just a wonderful place to be,” Donahue told CHEK News on Monday.

Now, after decades, the beloved shop is preparing to close its doors for good.

“It is definitely an iconic place for people to come and meet,” said longtime customer Andrea Miller.

The bakery was purchased two years ago by the Island Crisis Care Society to run it as a social enterprise and put formerly homeless people to work and teach them job skills through the support of trained workers.

“It’s very exciting. It’s a brand new start,” Program Rise student Lisa Balkwill told CHEK News in April 2022, as the formerly homeless Nanaimo resident she attended one of her first classes.

“I have an aim and a purpose,” Program Rise student Linda Haynes, told CHEK News in April 2022.

The non-profit running the bakery says the struggle to turn a profit means the bakery will have to shut.

“It’s been a long time coming I think, over the last few months. Just the challenges of doing business right now in our current economy,” said Corrie Corfield, Island Crisis Care Society’s director of people, culture and engagement.

According to Corfield, the bakery was losing money, and continuing to run it would have put programs that are helping homeless people get off the streets in jeopardy.

“The intention being that profits generated through the business would flow back into ICCS which would allow us to do more programming to support those in need. Instead it was draining,” said Corfield.

Yet Corfield says many once homeless clients have gained job skills at the bakery already and put them in positions elsewhere. Jeff Mottl is one of the 15 people losing their jobs with the bakery’s closure and says losing the community that was built there will be hardest of all.

“It was really nice to see these people getting another chance. So it’s going to be hard to move on from,” said Mottl, a trained baker.

The last day for the Nanaimo Bakery will be Nov. 24.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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