In the baked goods business, there’s no time to loaf

KINGSVILLE — Starting a business in the middle of a pandemic is risky, but within minutes of opening Miller’s Bakery, owner Hannah Miller knew she made the right decision.

For the opening day in May, Miller baked 700 croissants, 500 butter tarts, 30 loaves of bread and dozens of cookies and fruit squares. All were sold out in two hours. The lineup of customers at one point stretched from the bakery at the corner of Chestnut and King streets to Division Street North.

“It’s a weird feeling,” Miller said. “It’s exciting and you’re happy but then you think that I just made this and now it’s gone and I have to do it all over again. It’s a great problem to have.”

Subsequent weekends at the bakery were similar: her baked goods sold out quickly.“I’ve gotten better and faster and I’ve got a rhythm going in the kitchen so I’m making more things that last longer so people don’t have to line up for an hour to get something.

Freshly baked butter tarts, top photo, and croissants, above, are popular offerings.

“I like selling out because it’s accomplishing but it’s nice to have people be able to come here all day and get what they’re hoping to get and not be disappointed.”

Miller’s is open three days a week — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — and the remaining days are devoted to prep work. Miller, 22, works 80 hours a week and on the days the store is open she is up at 3 a.m. baking. She has three part-time employees. In addition, her father Joe washes dishes and her mother Holly helps in the kitchen.

Her mother, using social media, heavily promoted the bakery prior to its opening on Mother’s Day weekend.

“I think it was on my mom’s page where she posted the original announcement. It just blew up, all her friends shared and their friends shared; it was everybody,” she said.

Miller comes from a long line of entrepreneurs: her parents own Chapman Signs in Leamington and her grandparents operated a Kingsville laundromat.

Miller began baking at an early age and was an avid watcher of the Food Network growing up. So it was natural after graduating from high school that she would enrol at Niagara College to study baking and pastry making.

“I could never be one of those people who sit at a desk all day. I need to be working with my hands making stuff and baking.”

One of the places Miller worked after graduation was the 13th Street Bakery in Niagara-on-the- Lake — a bakery that in 2017 won Canada’s Best Butter Tart award from House and Home Magazine.

Micaela Fast, head baker at 13th Street Bakery and a friend of Miller’s, said it’s likely some elements of the bakery’s award-winning butter tart recipe found its way into Miller’s version.

Fast said her friend has an eye for detail which is a key ingredient to becoming a successful baker.

“A large part of baking is you want everything to be consistent and just being willing to work the hours because as bakers we work crazy hours, early mornings and sometimes very long days.”

Miller said there are a lot of similarities between Kingsville and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“With all the restaurants and then the wineries too because they are really big with (up) there, it’s like a mini-Niagara-on-the-Lake down here. It’s pretty cool.”

Miller’s approach to future growth of the bakery is slow and steady. “Hopefully (I’m) doing as well as now, if not better; hopefully with more variety of products,” she said.

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