Bread often gets a bad rap these days, with most running for the hills should a gluten-filled baked good come anywhere near their body. Sure, it is possible that some (or many) breads or baked goods can give you a tummy ache, but often that can come down to the over-processing that these foods (sadly) endure these days. When I had the opportunity to go on a grand opening tour of brodflour back in the early start of 2019, I was so thrilled to discover a new local business that is dedicating itself to solving a problem in this declining food category. If you are a lover of bread and baked goods in general, I won’t need to sell you on why you should try this incredible new bakery, but if you’ve been shying away from bread for the past few years, it might be time to reconsider, with help from brodflour’s refreshingly old-school approach to making bread great again.
Keep reading to meet Dara Galinger, the woman behind brodflour in Liberty Village:
Business Name: brodflour
Name & Title: Dara Gallinger, CEO & Co-founder
Education: BA & MBA from McGill University
Edit Seven: Tell us about your business, what do you do?
Dara Gallinger: brodflour is an urban mill, bakeshop, and café in Toronto. We believe the key to great bread is fresh flour, and in order to ensure the freshest highest quality flour is processed, we have decided to do it ourself. We mill every day and use fresh flour in all of our baked products, from sourdoughs to sweets.
E7: How did you start your business? What inspired you to start?
DG: My business partner and friend pitched the idea to me. I was working for Sobeys at the time and one day over dinner he asked me if I thought there was an opportunity to start a food business with bread at the centre. Knowing that this was a highly stigamatized food category in decline, I said that it was worth exploring how we could approach it differently. So from there I went on a journey around the world, exploring bread and the approach to bread from different cultures across North America and Europe. It was on my travels that I understood that in order to make the best bread you need the best raw ingredients. I headed to Austria to visit a stone mill manufacturer and that is where I touched fresh stone milled flour for the first time and the light bulb went off in my head. There was no flour I knew of in North America that looked and felt the way that fresh milled flour felt. I knew that it was going to be essential that if we wanted to give people a fresh take on bread, we needed to be using fresh flour. And so the journey began.
E7: Why do you love what you do?
DG: I love what I do because I love that there is so much integrity behind what we do everyday. We are starting a movement. A movement to reintroduce people to bread through fresh flour. And the opportunities are endless to change the way people understand and enjoy flour products. It’s so exciting to be working with great passionate people everyday who are all behind the mission.
E7: What makes your products special?
DG: All our products are made with organic stone milled flour that is just hours old. There is no other bakery that can say they are doing that. As a result our products have superior flavour and enhanced nutritional value. Our customers say that they can taste the difference, that our bread can be eaten on its own with nothing on it.
E7: Tell us more about the flour mill and process that you have integrated within the Brodflour retail location.
DG: We sourced our stone mill in North American from a Vermont baker and mill maker named Andrew Heyne of New American Stone Mill. We built an explosion proof glassed in mill room in the centre of our bakery so that the customer can see it all in action. We receive the organic grains directly from our farmers and mill everyday what we need that day for baking. It’s as simple as that. We don’t mill what we don’t need and we use what we mill within hours of the milling process. This ensure the germ oil is alive and in tact, and its in the germ oil that the flour gets all its flavour and where the nutrients and minerals reside.
E7: What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from running your business?
DG: Running your own business is a very humbling experience. You need to make a lot of mistakes in order to learn, and mistakes are going to be made; there’s no way to avoid them at the beginning. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned specifically on this journey is however long you think something is going to take and however much you think it’s going to cost, double it. Managing your own expectations of what is realistically possible is one of the best skills you can learn. Entrepreneurs tend to be very hard on themselves, if you set realistic expectations the stress around the disappointments will be easier to manage.
E7: What have been some of the pros and cons of building your business in Toronto?
DG: Toronto is a great place to test new interesting approaches to food. The market is ready and willing to try new things and Toronto has such an incredible food scene so you have a captive and passionate audience . I would say the tough part about Toronto is the municipal bureaucracy. It’s just plain and simply hard to get things done. So if you’re planning on building in the city, just make sure you make time for the process and don’t underestimate all the surprises that will come up along the way.
E7: How did you decide on the location for Brodflour and why?
DG: We had been searching for months for a spot. We caught wind of the Roastery being up for sale and we felt it was the right space and size to get started and to test the model.
E7: What are some of the ways that you’re expanding your business? Will your flour or bread/baked goods be available anywhere else?
DG: We are exploring a few different avenues around flour and bread wholesale. Also we will be launching pizza and wine at night soon too!
E7: What is your #1 piece of advice to keep in mind when starting your own bakery or food-based business?
DG: Just be kind to yourself and set realistic goals. Fit in as much self-care as you possibly can and try to enjoy the ride.
E7: Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting your business?
DG: I think if I knew that turning off my brain would be such a challenge I would have started practicing meditation ahead of the journey. Being able to shut off for even a few hours and focus on yourself is the most necessary thing in the early stages of starting a business from scratch. It’s a muscle that needs to be built and essential for mental and emotional wellness. If you don’t bring your best self to your work every day the work suffers so anything you can do to take care of yourself is as good for positioning the business to be successful as it is good for you.
E7: How do you stay organized, balanced and motivated?
DG: Yoga. I try to go 5/6 times a week. It’s a great way to incorporate meditation and exercise in one. Also I like to always try and take a step back and remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing. The food business is more granular than any other business I’ve had experience in. Sometimes it’s very easy to get caught up in the small details (because they are essential to success and more importantly can often be the reason for your failures) but often times they can distract you from the greater purpose and prevent you from enjoy yourself.
E7: Who are some of your mentors/role models?
DG: One of my most important mentors is my old boss from Sobeys, Gillian Kerr. She was VP Brand Marketing while I worked there. When I started she terrified me (because she was so freaking smart and good at what she did), and I wanted her to think I was smart too. But I worked my ass off and eventually we became very close. She has since retired from corporate grocery and spends a lot of time with me at brodflour helping me through the ins and outs of understanding how people experience food and how to best approach the brand and marketing strategy and customer experience. She’s also been a great spiritual guide for me always reminding me to stop and celebrate the wins. She’s one of my loudest cheerleaders and I don’t think I could do this without her support.
E7: Do you have a daily or regular ritual you practice that you love?
DG: Yoga, yoga yoga. And I’ve been starting the days with meditation. Gillian Kerr actually had me download the Calm app to my phone and I make sure I start off every day with a daily meditation.
E7: Where do you go or what do you do to look for inspiration?
DG: For me it’s going out and eating food whether it be here or around the world. Travel is so important when it comes to getting out of my bubble and being able to see things from a different perspective. My research and development trips have given me the biggest insights to date.
E7: Who is the Brodflour customer and why should they come in for a visit?
DG: The brodflour customer is someone who cares about where their food comes, how it’s grown and the integrity in which its processed. If you are interested in being reintroduced to bread and flour, we’re here for you, come by we can’t wait to show you what we’re up to.
(Story by Editor-in-Chief, Gracie Carroll; Photo cred Laura Warren-Causton)