Village Bakery will be reborn in old Dundas Post Office
It’s not easy to say you’ve found a win-win deal in the detritus of a fire that gutted your business and torched your soul.
But after nearly 18 months of anguish, Susan Preston says the light at the end of her personal tunnel is no longer lit by the memory of flames that raced through her business – The Village Bakery – in the heart of Dundas, just after New Year’s last year.
“I do feel like a Phoenix rising from the ashes,” Preston said over coffee this week as she contemplated her rebounding business. She expects to be back baking in a grand new setting this summer at the restored Dundas Post Office building, on King Street in the centre of town.
“It’s exciting, a win-win. I’ll be back in business and part of a project that is restoring a wonderful old building. That feels good.”
She’s buoyant, a far cry from the despondency which cloaked her for much of last year.
“It felt like a death, very difficult. There were times I didn’t want to go out because I knew people would ask about the fire and I would have to relive it. I broke out in hives, too.”
Preston, 60, wasn’t new to tough challenges, by the way. She raised four children as a single mom, keeping the household humming by juggling several jobs.
“But I’d never faced anything like this. I’m a goer, but things dragged on.”
That included an insurance settlement that left her substantially shy of what’s needed to replace bakery equipment.
But if the devil was in those details, angels abounded.
“The outpouring of support was wonderful,” she says, citing fellow Dundas merchants, the Dundas BIA and a Facebook group called The Friends of Village Bakery, which is closing in on 1,100 members.
And then the folks at St. Paul’s United Church offered their big kitchen to her so she could get back to her passion and serve some of the customers she’d developed at the 65 King Street location.
Her new bakery will be about half the size of the previous space and it is a bit off the core shopping area, but she gushes about totally new electrical service (electrical was the cause of that fire) and the possibility of a small patio out front of the imposing post office building.
She’ll set up there on King during Buskerfest, June 3-5, in her 1950 Ford pickup, dispensing cakes and cookies. And she expects to be back at the Dundas Farmer’s Market, which opens June 16, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Preston’s lease begins July 1 at the post office building; she’s aiming at Aug. 1 to be open, but allows early September might be the realistic re-opening of her business.
The 98-year-old building is being developed by LM Enterprises. Calls to the company went unanswered Wednesday.
The post office was built in 1913 and has a Romanesque façade that
is dominated by the 100-foot-high Venetian clock tower, a history of
downtown Dundas says. Each clock face is six feet in diameter. The
clock, which has not operated in years, was manufactured in and
shipped from England.
The building was almost demolished in 1973, but public pressure
saved it. Now it is reborn, just like Susan Preston’s Valley Bakery.
Many thanks to John Kernaghan for the permission to use his OpenFile article.