Tucked away in the Sunnyside Natural Market, you’ll find Sidewalk Citizen Bakery serving fresh organic bread, biscuits and croissants. The artisan shop was founded by Aviv Fried, a baking hobbyist turned small business owner.
Back in university, Aviv’s career path was taking him in a different direction. After graduating with a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Calgary, he was signed and ready for a career with TD Bank Toronto. Aviv took a bold chance and abandoned this career path to follow his love for making good quality bread.
“I always really liked food and cooking. I started baking for fun, and really liked it. I thought, I need to give it a shot,” he said thinking back to the deciding moment.
He began baking from his own home, delivering fresh bread by bike to the Calgary core. He cycled because it was good for the environment, fun, quick and made delivery a lot easier. With the help of his partner Michal, the two processed orders and donated proceeds to an organization that builds libraries for schools in Africa.
The shop continues to give back, but now to the local Calgary community. They are happy to support events and charities such as the Calgary Tweed Ride, an Inglewood fundraising event and Calgary Reads. In addition, Aviv enjoys sharing his craft with the community through monthly workshops focusing on sour dough and pizza making. “It’s good to be apart of this community,” he explained.
Successful streets have small businesses.
He definitely is apart of the vibrant community. The bakery has a lot of regular customers that the staff know by name and have built strong relationships with. Which is well suited, since their name is based on a book by Jane Jacobs. “It’s about how the sidewalk changes throughout the day and how small businesses play a role in that. They use the sidewalk to go to work, shop and go to school. Successful streets have small businesses,” he said, explaining why they chose the current name.
“We act a bit like a guardian of the street. When you walk past us you feel a little bit of safety,” he added.
The shop definitely had a feeling of openness, warmth and friendliness. Patrons were striking conversation with other patrons and asking staff members about the delicious ingredients. It was a place you could easily start working into your regular routine.
When asked to describe an experience of community, he explained that one recent memory really stood out. “I have a vegetable garden in front of my house that I started a year ago. Just the feeling of people walking by and talking to you because you’re sitting in a garden, which they never would do if you aren’t. It was a good lesson for me. It was interesting to see their reaction. It’s Calgary, like any other city, I don’t think many people otherwise talk to their neighbours,” he said.
If you want to work at the bakery, you might try your luck walking in and asking. Their first Executive Chef was a previous customer with restaurant experience. He asked for a job and he got it. Similarly the customer service staff, also regular customers from the neighborhood, were hired by simply asking or even texting.
Only recently has he expanded to 22 staff members. Aviv still does a lot of the baking but has hired two more bakers to help offset the workload. “I try to give them a little bit of room. The problem is that it is a trade so I can explain it to them a million times but they have to really get the feel with their hands… It’s definitely a challenge to let them do it. But I have to,” Aviv said.
In the last few years the expansion has been a rapid, tough change for Aviv. Moving from solely a baker comfortable with dough, to having to learn the business side of things with his partner Michal. There has definitely been a learning curve for the duo, moving from a business where relationships are familiar to a shop where relationships become more distant and require structure.
Learning from local small business owners.
Being a small business, the two have battled a few challenges together. “In a small business we always have to be cautious with where we are and what we’re doing,” Aviv said.
Fortunately, they have learned from their local small business friends Phil & Sebastian Coffee Makers. They have a mutual partnerships with the local coffee brewers; Aviv sells their coffee and they sell his baked goods.
The bakery also has a lot of support from Pat & Patty, owners of the Sunnyside Natural Market. When the extra space was acquired by the market, the owners asked Aviv if he would like to partner with them. Aviv went on to explain how partnership in business and personal life can be tricky. However, so far the partnership with the Market has only been positive.
Buying organic flour and supporting local farmers is a must.
Having organic flour has been a no brainer for the duo but can come with its’ challenges. From the beginning they were clear about the quality and values they stood for. “If this is what you want to do, you don’t think about the options,” he noted. He explained that it’s about finding a solution that works for them but this can be different for everyone. “Using organic butter might be too costly with a cookie costing $20,” he added in regards to some of the cost challenges.
The shop takes steps to be sustainable beyond providing local, organic products. They recycle, compost and use Bullfrog Power. They continue to deliver by bike throughout the winter season. In addition Aviv is proud that they use whole wheat Red Fife flour, which is Canadian Heritage wheat that has been growing in Canada without modification.
Calgarians care about local, quality food.
“I think Calgarians really care about the quality of their food and who makes it. I think in general people have moved away and realize there is quality behind the big boxes,” Aviv explained in regards to the shifting perception of food in Calgary. He aims to continue to focus on experimenting with new foods, flavors and techniques for Calgarians to enjoy.
If you’re going to try anything, Aviv insists you try the bread – of course because he is the baker! But don’t just take his word for it, try it yourself! You can find more information on their location, hours and mission here: http://sidewalkcitizenbakery.com/