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Best of the City: Third-generation owners keep Dutch Bakery recipes alive after 65 years in Victoria

Bakery thrives again after readapting business model during pandemic
A selection of tasty, colourful treats on display at Dutch Bakery. According to manager Michele Byrne, the bakery does not shy away from selling extra sweet treats. (Courtesy of Dutch Bakery and Diner)

With the Dutch Bakery and Diner celebrating 65 years of business this year, third-generation manager and bookkeeper Michele Byrne is pleased to see her family business as busy as it has ever been.

Byrne started helping her mother at the bakery in Grade 7 and officially began working there at 14. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was hard for Byrne to see the business at half capacity and she longed to see all its tables full once again.

“Those first few days, I didn’t sleep at all,” she recalled.

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Following a brief three-day shutdown, Dutch Bakery launched its own Shopify site, operating online as an on-the-go business and baking twice a week to fulfill customers’ orders. Byrne credited this remodelling of the business for helping Dutch Bakery stay afloat during unprecedented times and was grateful to have a high volume of customers finally returning.

“I’m working now more than ever, but that’s life,” she said, adding that seeing her family’s business bloom has always made her happy.

Along with serving in store and selling baked goods online, Dutch Bakery also regularly distributes products to several grocers including Root Cellar, Old Farm Market, Market Garden, Peppers and Urban Grocer.

“Wholesale opened our eyes to new ways of doing business,” Byrne said.

Dutch Bakery also uses food and beverage delivery company TUTTI to serve communities that normally would not have access to its goods.

Running their first bakery in Rotterdam, Byrne’s grandparents and Dutch Bakery founders Kees and Mable Schaddelee relocated to the Netherlands town of Soest before coming to Canada in 1955. Sponsored by a Dutch family living in Victoria, the Schaddelees worked at a local bakery and later decided to open their own diner.

“Mable wasn’t a housewife,”Byrne said proudly, alluding to social norms of that era. “She was a business owner.”

Dutch Bakery started off as an import-heavy business, but began to produce more items in store as import fees increased.

Despite modifying certain recipes due to consistencies changing over time for ingredients like flour and butter, the family has kept most of the original European recipes. Changes in selection throughout the year, such as with various seasonal tarts, give customers more to look forward to.

While some items have been discontinued in the past year, Dutch Bakery still offers more than 100 products and purposely avoids serving “trendy” items. Other local bakeries may appeal to specific dietary needs and aim for a healthier product selection, but Dutch Bakery does not shy away from sugar and the pure sweetness of its multi-generational recipes.

“We’ve got the good stuff,” Byrne said. “It’s comfort food at a reasonable price.”

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Byrne currently runs Dutch Bakery with cousins Jack Schaddelee, the head baker; and Brook Schaddelee, the chocolatier and pastry maker. All four of Kees and Mable Schaddelee’s children and all eight of their grandchildren dedicated themselves to the business for various lengths of time.

Dutch Bakery also has 19 employees, the most in its 65-year history. Byrne expressed her deepest appreciation toward employees and customers alike for sticking around during the last year.

“Our customers are like our extended family, staying loyal to us all along.”

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Fresh cakes on display for the taking at Dutch Bakery. Grandparents Kees and Mable Schaddelee ran a bakery in Rotterdam, Holland and worked at another bakery in Victoria before finally opening their own bakery and diner on Fort Street. (Courtesy of Dutch Bakery and Diner)