Sweet Success

At the Procter Village Café, the swirly cinnamon buns are topped with sweet, gooey icing—and are in very high demand. The socially distanced lineup for their cinnamon buns stretched out the door.

4 minute read

Procter’s delicious community asset is reborn

At the Procter Village Café, the swirly cinnamon buns are topped with sweet, gooey icing—and are in very high demand. When the café opened in August 2020, almost two years after Procter’s previous bakery had shut down, the excitement was immediate, with a socially distanced lineup stretching outside. Lisa Norris says, “The cinnamon bun craziness—it was insane!”

Norris is Vice-President of the Procter Community Society, which spearheaded the effort to bring a bakery back to the community. Located in the century-old Procter Schoolhouse—which the Society has owned, on behalf of the community, for as far back as Norris can remember—the bakery had run under several owners for about 20 years but closed in September 2018.

Right away, the community knew what it wanted done with the space. Norris says, “It was unanimous that we wanted it to be a bakery again.”

It wasn’t just that people couldn’t live without cinnamon buns. Rather, the bakery “really is an important part of our community,” Norris says, and served as a community hub in non-pandemic times. The business would also create local employment, plus would bring attention to the other organizations located in the building: a hairdresser, potter/sculptor, chiropractic team, library, and new art gallery, plus the Harrop Procter Community Forest office. Altogether, this foot traffic would help the economy of the small, isolated village.

First, though, the space needed renovating. The Society received a $30,000 grant from the Trust’s Community Development Program. This went toward items like planning, construction materials and labour, kitchen equipment and exterior improvements.

To help with these activities, the Society also received a loan from the Trust’s Impact Investment Fund. This program supports good business opportunities that can’t obtain conventional financing; the organization must have a business plan that shows credible revenue, expense and budget estimates, and must be able to repay the loan. The opportunity must also demonstrate significant positive and measurable impacts in the community.

The Society also benefited from financial and hands-on support from volunteers, local businesses, the Regional District of Central Kootenay and others. As a result, it brought the space up to modern standards, made it accessible, and equipped it with everything a café could need, right down to utensils.

What Society members didn’t want to do, though, was be responsible for the cinnamon buns—and all the other goodies and tasks—themselves. “We’re just a small, volunteer organization,” Norris says, and the daily running of a café would have been too much extra work. Their goal was to own and lease the renovated space, not operate the café itself.

Luckily, Balfour-based bakers Amber and Andrew Estlin were keen on leasing the Procter locale and moving their business into it. This business, called BAKE at the Village, runs the Procter Village Café, from baking the goods to serving the customers. A small percentage of monthly sales will come back to the Society; down the road, it will invest some of these proceeds into community initiatives.

Norris says, “The Society and community benefit directly. And it allowed a new budding business to step in and have a go without all of the daunting financial commitments that can go along with a start-up.”

While the pandemic slowed down the renovations, the café was able to open on August 1, 2020. The reception was “unbelievable,” Norris says. Beyond cinnamon buns, the café also sells treats like carrot cake cheesecake, meals like varying types of specialty pizzas and loafs like rosemary bread. To attend to the influx of customers, it hired two summer staff.

Last summer outdoor seating proved popular. During chillier times, takeout has been the biggest draw. But, Norris says, “With the warmer months and outdoor seating just weeks away, this summer will no doubt be even busier than last summer.”

Overall, the café has “been a success story all the way around,” she says.

The people with cinnamon buns in hand will undoubtedly agree.

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