The Dutch Bakery & Diner has been a family-owned and operated business since 1956. Three generations in, Michele Byrne owns the business and runs the front of the bakery. Their delicious treats–such as unforgettable birthday cakes–have had customers coming back to their location at 718 Fort Street for decades. We visited Michele at the bakery to learn more about the business and how she got started.
What does the Dutch Bakery & Diner provide and what is your mission?
“The Dutch Bakery & Diner was founded in 1956 by my family and it’s been family-owned and operated all these years. We specialize in European style pastries, baked goods, cookies, and then chocolates as well. We keep to traditional recipes.”
“We don’t necessarily change with the flow all the time, we’re kind of old school that way. So you’re not going to find any gluten free–well we have a few things, but not a lot. We don’t do vegan items, we just kind of stick to what we know. It seems to be working.”
How did you get started with the bakery?
“So I started as a student coming in and working after school with my mom and working weekends. Then I came in right after high school and worked full time my entire life. It allowed me to spend time with my kids–when I had kids I only worked part time. And so now I’m here full time running the front and all of the second generation has left, so it’s all third generation now. It’s three of us–I run the front and then my two cousins run the kitchen.”
How do you think the Dutch Bakery positively impacts the community?
“I just think being a longstanding downtown business has an impact–we’re right in the heart of Fort Street so we’ve been a part of this city watching it grow in its good and bad ways around us.”
“And then also, the memories for people. It’s funny, our customers are very loyal and we’ve got a lot of really old-school customers. I hear from people young and old say, ‘I came in with my grandmother and now we’re bringing my kids in,’ and that’s a cool thing. So we really are a tradition for a lot of people.”
Do you have any favourite aspects of the job?
“I do enjoy listening to people’s stories and the importance that the bakery has meant to them. People say things like, ‘I’ve only ever had a Dutch Bakery birthday cake’ and those sorts of things, and that’s special. We get emails from people asking us to ship products, so we ask what they’d like, and they say cakes. A cake! Well you can’t send a cake in the mail. It’s not going to work! But that’s just how important we are to some people.”
What is important to you and the team in the workplace here?
“Just a positive attitude. My front-end staff is usually more turnover but the kitchen staff is most definitely long term. We’ve got a couple guys back there who are thirty plus years in, which is really special. Guys that have grown up through the business started at 18 and they’re in their 30s now. We just try to treat them as family and take care of our staff as much as we can.”
Is there any special ingredient to keeping the Dutch Bakery as amazing as it is for so long?
“We bake our own marzipan so all the almond-based marzipan we make from scratch ourselves. So it’s just that quality that we have control over. We don’t always have control over the almonds but we have control over what we do with them. And we don’t use artificial sweeteners, we don’t use preservatives–it’s just natural, enjoyable, good food.
If someone had never heard of the Dutch Bakery before, what is one thing you wish you could tell them?
“Just come in for a special, different treat. A unique treat. Something you’re not going to find everywhere. It’s just a little bit different.”
“Come and enjoy our diner, it has that old school diner feel and we have good, wholesome breakfasts. Everyone loves our hamburgers. So come in for a hamburger and a treat and enjoy feeling old-school comfort and not paying a fortune.”