In a city where the headlines are usually matters of national or international importance, the local events surrounding Ottawa’s only kosher bakery have been overwhelmingly prominent recently.
The drama began on Friday, June 28, at the beginning of the Canada Day long weekend, when customers arrived at the Rideau Bakery to find the doors locked and a sign indicating that it had closed for good. With no prior warning, customers were shocked and dismayed, and news spread rapidly throughout the city.
Social media was abuzz throughout the week as concern spread through the Jewish community about the sudden loss of fresh kosher bread and baked goods. The Jewish Federation of Ottawa compiled and disseminated a list of kosher breads available in the city, while many residents scoured store shelves and shared their finds with one another.
The Rideau Bakery, which was being run by brothers David and Louis Kardish, third-generation owner-operators of the family business, has been an Ottawa institution for almost 90 years. The family has faithfully continued to use the “secret” recipes they brought from Ukraine and their rye bread and challah, in particular, have become famous, even outside the city.
David Kardish says the bakery and its products have become a part of many families’ lives. “It is very personal for a lot of people. People have become very accustomed to it and they know it and love it. We have some fifth generations of families shopping here. This is like losing a member of the family,” he says.
He tells of people taking their favourite breads to far-flung locations. “I have a guy who comes from Calgary every three or four months and loads up with bags of bread to take back … and people take two or three bags of bread to Florida with them,” he says.
The decision to close was based on both financial and health considerations, according to its proprietors. Louis Kardish, 65, was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma and recently began treatment.
In the midst of the frenzy, and barely a week after the shocking announcement of the bakery’s demise, came news that the Kardish family agreed to sell the bakery, including its name and recipes, to the Farm Boy grocery chain.
The sale was apparently not in the works before the bakery shut its doors. According to the Ottawa Business Journal, Farm Boy CEO Jeff York was surprised to hear of the bakery’s closure and said that the two sides took only a few days to come to an agreement on the sale.
Once the products are back in production, they will be available at all Farm Boy locations and will continue to carry the Rideau Bakery brand. When that happens, many residents will surely be thankful that they can buy their bread again – freshly baked, as they have come to love it.