Food

Made in Canada: Sullivan and Bleeker

By: Canadian Living
Canadian Living
Food

Made in Canada: Sullivan and Bleeker

By: Canadian Living

Not all cookies are created equal, especially the store-bought kind. Some are too chewy, some too soft, some too hard and some too sweet. The first time I tasted one of Sullivan & Bleeker's cookies, I was quickly reminded that store-bought cookies can taste every bit as delicious as the homemade ones -- if not better. Here is the story of how Canadian entrepreneur Elyse Wahle went from the simple idea of baking for friends and family to producing just shy of 100,000 cookies during this past holiday season. Sullivan products It all started in her bite-sized oven, nestled in a tiny apartment at the corner of Sullivan and Bleeker in Manhattan where Wahle was working at the time. After returning to Toronto and committing to starting her own venture, she quickly started filling orders for friends and family, and as word got around, she was soon selling to local grocery stores. The latest on the list? Indigo, where a selection of her holiday-baked goods decked the shelves this past holiday season. Whether she's making 10,000 cupcakes for a retailer or a dozen for a client, her passion is the same. She's constantly striving for baked goods that taste just a bit better than the best homemade ones. Sullivan cookie Jennifer Bartoli: Can you tell us how your experiences in New York helped shape your business in Toronto? Elyse Wahle: After having worked for a little while in New York, I moved back to my hometown, Toronto, set on studying the LSATs to become a lawyer. Soon after, I got a phone call from someone I knew in New York. "We're opening a candy store!" My friend was partnering with Dylan Lauren, Ralph Lauren's daughter, who wanted to open a candy store (the now famed Dylan's Candy Bar in Manhattan). He wanted me to come down and work for them. I kept saying no. I had decided to go to law school, to get a real job. He finally wore me down and I did. I worked there for almost 4 years and learned so much. People often assume that based on Dylan's upbringing and her background that she would be a certain way and she's not. She's lovely, she's sweet and she's kind, warm and engaging and she lives and breathes for candy. I learned about the business end of candy. It cemented my great love for all things sweet. I did so many random things on the job, like J.Crew needing the store to provide 10,000 popcorn balls for their Christmas window displays! Every day was different, and varied and it prepared me for the business I've built now. JB: How did you go from selling candy in New York to starting a baking business in Toronto? What was the process? EW: New York wears you down after a while. I had this cute little apartment at the corner of Sullivan and Bleeker, but it was 285 square feet and a four-floor walk-up. I had to trek up almost 100 stairs to get to my apartment, a beautiful pre-war building with a tiny, tiny oven - it couldn't fit a regular house-sized sheet pan! I started baking for work events - and I started decorating cakes and cupcakes. At the time decorating wasn't as huge as it is now. With my sculpting and drawing background -- I have a fine arts degree -- it came naturally to me. I moved back to Toronto, and after a year working at a cupcake shop,  I knew it was finally time to do it for myself. Sullivan cupcakes JB: Talk to me about the name of your brand. Is it about bringing a little bit of New York to Canada? EW: I named the bakery after my place in New York. It's kind of an homage to my adult formative years. Steve Jobs mentioned that you can't connect the dots moving forward but you can connect them moving back and I realized just how important my years in New York had been to getting to where I am now. Sullivan cupcake JB: What do you think makes Sullivan & Bleeker unique? EW: I wanted to create a line that felt like me and that was creative. We were the first ones to put out a red velvet cookie and now I see them around -- which is really flattering!  I want to continue to innovate and try to lead the brigade. We pay special attention to ingredients so that our baked goods use only premium quality ingredients. At the bakery, we scoop every cookie by hand, regardless of how big of a batch we need to make. That gives each and every cookie that nice dome. We don't use preservatives in the ingredients we can control (there are some added elements, such as Oreos, in some of our treats), we don't use hydrogenated oils and all of our baked goods are peanut and tree nut free. We put all of our efforts in making the end-result taste really, really good. I also design all of our packaging which is important to me. Part of the joy of opening a treat is the packaging and I absolutely love designing ours. To learn more about Sullivan & Bleeker check out their website here. Made-In-Canada-Series[3] The Made in Canada series profiles entrepreneurs in the Canadian food industry who have successfully created a food-related product.     Sullivan & Bleeker food photography by Jennifer Bartoli
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Made in Canada: Sullivan and Bleeker

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