By Nicole Di Tomasso
Founded in 2018, Dear Grain got its start in the tiny back kitchen of Detour Cafe in Dundas, Ont. From there, its breads gained popularity through word of mouth and in 2020 the team began experimenting with sourdough e-commerce, shipping freshly baked bread overnight to customers in Ontario and Quebec. After gaining its footing, Dear Grain finally opened its first standalone retail location in Toronto on Ossington Ave. in November.
Founder and head baker at Dear Grain, Adri Greenspan, began baking in 2016 when he was working as a private chef. He says one his clients requested gluten-free bread and was tasked with coming up with a recipe, which led to the development of regular sourdough bread. After a year and a half, Greenspan perfected the recipe.
Dear Grain also has a commissary kitchen in Hamilton, Ont. where all of its breads, pastries and pantry goods are made. Greenspan says the brand’s top-selling item is the Classic Country Loaf. On the pastry side, morning buns and coffee cake are two of the most popular items. The Toronto team consists of seven people while the Hamilton team has 10.
“We want to inspire people to try new things,” says Greenspan. “Every week on Thursday, we make a spontaneous loaf. We usually don’t repeat the same loaf unless it’s a big hit, and it has become a recurring event that customers look forward to because it’s a way to experience bread in a completely different way than what people are used to. For the team, it’s a way for us to be creative and step out of our day-to-day routine.”
Currently, Dear Gran offers picnic packs, wine and bread pairings and two subscriptions, The Breadwinner Subscription and the Three Month Breadwinner Gift Subscription. Soon, the brand will introduce a third online sourdough subscription.
“We’re in the process of developing an online sourdough package subscription, which we’re hoping to release by the end of summer or early fall,” says Greenspan.
Sustainability is top of mind for Dear Grain. “We source as much flour locally as possible and use as many organic ingredients as possible. Another is re-purposing old bread into other products like bread crumbs, crostinis and desserts like bread puddings,” says Greenspan. “In terms of packaging, we’ve transitioned from plastic to craft paper and boxes, which has worked for us quite well.”
As Dear Grain continues to grow, Greenspan looks forward to expanding his team, opening additional locations and supplying to foodservice operators.
“Our number-1 goal is to create a quality product and reach as many customers as possible by expanding our locations and forming partnerships. Internally, we want to attract a team of passionate people to build a community,” says Greenspan. “Dear Grain focuses on providing an inclusive environment that staff enjoy coming to every day to build a sustainable business. In order to retain staff, they need to really enjoy the workplace.”
Greenspan says he’s learned a lot while growing this brand from the ground up, saying the kitchen “brings him the most fulfillment and self-discovery.” Over the course of the pandemic, he has learned how to channel stress into productivity fuel.
“As the business grows, I’m learning how to embrace mistakes and create a non-stressful environment. I want everyone to show up, learn and just be themselves,” says Greenspan. “Some stress is good, but when there’s too much, everything starts to break down. It’s that moment that everything becomes less fun. I’m always thinking about how I can sustain the business in a way that’s enjoyable for everyone. The experience of building a team has been so rewarding.”