Farm Boy buys Rideau Bakery assets to 'keep great local brand alive'

Farm BOy
Farm Boy co-CEO Jeff York. File photo

Just over a week after it announced it was closing its doors for good, an iconic Ottawa business has found a “white knight” to revive its venerable brand.

Rideau Bakery’s owners said Wednesday they’ve agreed to sell the historic family enterprise’s assets ​– including its name and recipes ​– to grocery chain Farm Boy. Terms of the transaction were not released.

Farm Boy co-CEO Jeff York told OBJ the deal is a “great fit” for his chain, which was launched in Cornwall in the 1980s and grew into a widely recognized local brand in its own right before being acquired by Nova Scotia-based grocery conglomerate Empire Co. last year.

“I think it’s a great day for Farm Boy to be able to make a deal with the owners of Rideau Bakery and actually keep a great local brand alive,” he said, noting the bakery had already been selling its goods to the grocery chain for years.

“The right thing is to get this product into our store. It makes sense for this brand to end up with us.”

Founded nearly 90 years ago by brothers David and Abie Kardish, the Rideau Bakery abruptly shut down its two locations over the Canada Day weekend, with current co-owner Louis Kardish telling various media outlets the closure was due to a combination of business and health concerns.

The news hit close to home for members of Ottawa’s Jewish community. A letter from the Jewish Federation of Ottawa bemoaned the loss of a reliable source for kosher baked goods and thanked the Kardish family for their generations of service, while shocked customers took to social media to express their dismay over the closure.

In a statement Wednesday, Louis Kardish, who owned and operated the third-generation family business with his brother David and sister Debbie, said the deal will ensure customers will be able to keep enjoying the baked treats they love for years to come.

“This really is a white-knight scenario for us,” he said. “We will see the tradition of our grandmother’s old-world, kosher baking live on, supported by Farm Boy’s modern management and logistics. We are thrilled that customers will soon be able to find Rideau Bakery products at all Farm Boy locations.” 

The Rideau Bakery’s two locations ​– the original on Rideau Street and another on Bank Street in the city’s south end ​– employed a total of about 40 full- and part-time staff. 

York said Farm Boy is in the process of interviewing some of those employees to work at the Bank Street facility, which will continue to operate as a bakery but will no longer have a storefront. The Rideau Street location will remain closed.

He said the news of the bakery’s demise caught him by surprise like everyone else, adding the two sides started hammering out details of the agreement over the weekend and put the finishing touches on the deal Tuesday night.

York said his priority right now is to “get up and running as quickly as possible” at the Bank Street location. He said bread products will be rolled out first, followed by pastries and other items. 

“There’s a lot of demand from the community for the bread products,” he said. “Over time, we’ll look at introducing more items into the assortment.”

He noted the traditional, centuries-old recipes require expertise that’s not readily at hand in a modern baking operation ​– the bread, for example, is made without yeast.

“It’s not just saying, ‘OK, we’re going to bake the bread tonight,’” York explained with a chuckle. “It’s not that easy.”

Once the products start landing on Farm Boy’s shelves, they will carry the Rideau Bakery brand. York said you can’t put a price on the goodwill the historic business has built up in the community over nearly a century.

“Building names takes generations,” York said. “They’ve got (customers) who’ve only ever eaten their products since they were babies. The Rideau Bakery heritage and stories are awesome.”

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