LaSalle scientist creates treats for the whole family

Mary Draper, Baker and Owner of Mary's Mindful BakeHouse in LaSalle, Ontario

A local pharmaceutical scientist turned entrepreneur has transformed her science background into a dietary conscious business with LaSalle’s newest bakery.

Mary’s Mindful BakeHouse is a family run bakery on 805 Front Rd. in LaSalle. Owner and baker Mary Draper and her family found that there was a need in the market for dietary inclusive treats.

Among the varieties of sweets and breads offered, customers won’t find gluten, grains, dairy, legumes, processed oils, or processed sugars as listed ingredients. The bakery aims to ensure no matter the dietary restriction, everyone will find something to enjoy without sacrifice. “Instead of getting a special side-treat for your celiac uncle, or a vegan brownie for your sister, you can buy one treat, and share it with everyone,” explained Draper.

Draper attributes being home with her kids during the March 2020 lockdown with her decision to transition baking from a family pastime into her full-time job. The longtime hobby was fueled by her own family’s dietary restrictions, which inspired adapted recipes for years. The decision to leave her job as a pharmaceutical scientist and venture out for herself was supported by the overwhelming response to her niche product selection.

“With many different dietary restrictions in our family, we’ve been adapting our favourite recipes for years. In the spring I found myself on leave from my job as a pharmaceutical scientist, with my four kids off school, and we spent a lot of time baking together. One day we decided to share our delicious baked goods, and the rest is history.”

Mary’s Mindful BakeHouse launched last September as a vendor at the Downtown Windsor Famers’ Market, before moving to taking orders through an e-commerce website in November and eventually opening the storefront in February 2021. Draper recalls the decision to expand from a home-based business into a full-time storefront operation had to do with the volume of orders and time commitment that this side business required. 

“We joined the Downtown Windsor Farmers’ Market and by November I was working on the bakery before work, on my lunch break, and baking for hours afterwards just to keep up. … My husband James and I decided it was time to find a bigger space … After our lease offer was accepted, I put in my two weeks’ notice to focus on [the business] and renovating our new space.”

For Draper, one of the biggest learning processes while starting her bakery was understanding regulations from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. She is also focused on strengthening other aspects of her operation such as incorporating the business and learning tax and hiring processes. Draper found that large tasks became more manageable when she accessed resources available through the WindsorEssex Small Business Centre and other government websites. 

“Our business has grown so much since we started, allowing us to serve so many more people while still staying true to our mission. It started simply with friends and family and neighbours. Creating a website and adding a listing to Google allowed others to find us too. The [Downtown Windsor Farmers’ Market] opened the doors to a whole new community and allowed us to develop new recipes and gather amazing feedback,” said Draper.

So far, feedback for Mary’s Mindful BakeHouse has been overwhelmingly supportive, especially from the local Lasalle community. “We have met so many new faces in our community — people coming out because of a friend or family member they know with a dietary restriction, or just because (they thought) LaSalle was in need of a bakery,” said Draper. Since opening the storefront, the team has been working seven days a week to keep up with orders and has put measures in place to better organize tasks and make fulfillment more efficient.

Draper plans to build her team to help grow business for Mary’s Mindful BakeHouse. She also has dreams of expanding her product selection by adding a soft serve ice cream machine and a barista station to cater to the neighbourhood they call home. “People can come in and enjoy a fresh baked treat with a warm beverage or take a walk with their kids along the new waterfront park with a treat they can all enjoy.”

Mary’s Mindful BakeHouse is a client of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre and has received advisory and mentorship through the centre’s complimentary resources. You, too, can receive support in launching or expanding your small business. Contact us for more information.