All Rise

Passion for baking leads Vann family to open artisanal shop


  • Business   Thursday, June 9, 2022   Matt Harris
Vann's Fine Bakery recently held their grand opening at their Douro Street location, welcoming the public in person at long last. Elissa and Derek Vann are excited to be offering artisanal breads to their customers.


Vann's Fine Bakery recently held their grand opening at their Douro Street location, welcoming the public in person at long last. Elissa and Derek Vann are excited to be offering artisanal breads to their customers.


Baking takes time and patience to create something mouth-watering, and it takes creativity to see things where others don’t. But when you can find your passion project after looking for it for so long and be creative with it, so much the better.

So when the opportunity came along for Derek and Elissa Vann, they felt it was a little serendipitous. Vann’s Fine Bakery opened just this month to the public, bringing the latest step in the Vann family’s journey so far.

“The idea for Vann’s Fine Bakery was born out of Derek’s long-time career as a red seal chef working in fine dining, and my education as a holistic nutritionist being passionate about wholesome and organic food,” Elissa Vann said. Both of us are entrepreneurs at heart – me having a business in digital marketing and web design – but Derek was on the hunt for his passion project and a career he could truly explore his creativity in.”

The serendipitous turn for the husband-and-wife team came when they found the building that would become Vann’s Fine Bakery. Located at 215 Douro Street, Unit B, Elissa discovered the building had a history of food service as it has been home to a grocery store for nearly half a century. It took some work and a few hoops to jump through, but the bakery rose to the challenge – including opening their doors once already before having to close them in order to re-zone the property.

“We were only open for a few months, and it’s been a long and arduous process to get to the point of opening, and we are so grateful to be at this point,” she said. “As small business owners, it’s been tough to be closed but we are excited to take the next step. Of course, it’s a little bit scary to take the plunge and it is new territory to open a brick-and-mortar business, but we’ve been so lucky for all the support we have received throughout the entire process. We have the best neighbours and customers.”

So with the location secured, that allowed Derek chase down the dream of baking for a living. According to Elissa, it’s how he got into the culinary world in the first place and is something that came to him naturally.

“Derek’s first job was actually as a baker and, as he went on to become an experienced chef, it came naturally to him to venture into combining his skills in creating elevated meals into creating elevated baked goods,” she said, “It is surprisingly quite an art as it takes a lot of experience, timing and even getting the environment (temperature, humidity, etc.) just right to make a load of sourdough come out well. The uniqueness comes in being passionate about food and flavours as any chef is, so he lets his creativity shine as much as possible to make delicious and unique breads.”

For her part, Elissa is using her skills as a holistic nutritionist to make Vann’s offerings that much better. By sourcing as many of their ingredients as locally as they can, the Vann’s are hoping they’re able to maximize the nutritional value along with other key factors.

“From a small business and environmental stand point, local is also very impactful,” Elissa said. “It can sometimes be difficult to source ingredients that check all of the boxes but we search high and low to find ones that are organic and as local as possible. It really does make all of the difference in the end product to confidently say that it tastes amazing and you can feel good about feeding it to your family. Additionally, we try to make sure that we can accommodate all sorts of food sensitivities and allergies, such as gluten and dairy intolerance. It’s very important to us that everyone can enjoy what we make.”

Just a glimpse of their offerings will make one’s mouth begin to water: rustic wheat sourdough, toasted coriander raisin and hand-rolled bagels are just a few choices they’ve come up with, and Elissa says the menus has been a process of both inspiration and fun experimentation to narrow things down. It doesn’t hurt that Derek gets to dig in with his creative chops when coming up with new breads, which will be reflected in a rotating seasonal menu.

“Our organic hand-rolled bagels have been very popular, but one little known thing might be that we have lots of beautiful locally made giftable items in our shop,” she said. “Things like beautiful linen bags, aprons, charcuterie boards and an assortment of jams, jellies and honies.”

But now that their shop is completely in their hands, giving them the freedom to chart their own course, Elissa said the best part about the whole process is finally before them: creating something new and sharing it with those who appreciate it.

“Derek loves the complete freedom to get creative with the menu and direct the process – a dream of many chefs,” she said. “I personally love putting the hard work into creating something from scratch and watching it grow and flourish. Our storefront, design and branding was a labour of love and I have loved seeing and creating each piece as it came together. Last but not least, we both love seeing all of the smiling faces of our customers who have made it all worth it.”

Vann’s Fine Bakery is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. You can find them online at www.vannsbakery.com, or call 519-508-8266 for more details.