Food and Beverage / News / People
As with many business owners in Medicine Hat, Carole and Brendan Hillson, owners of McBride’s Bakery, have had to pivot in order to stay open and profitable during the new economic environment they face with the onset of COVID-19. Never one to back away from a challenge, they immediately began finding solutions to continue to provide services while maintaining social distancing and servicing people in isolation in their homes.
Being classified as an essential business by the Government of Alberta has allowed them to keep the doors open, and thanks to partnering with Leave it to Lucy deliveries, Hatters can receive fresh baked products right to their front door. McBride’s is strongly encouraging pre-orders, which can be called in and picked up promptly on arrival at the store. By asking people to stay behind the line, not accepting cash, and maintaining social distancing measures in the store has allowed them to continue operating.
The Hillson’s are very grateful to be able to continue on as an essential business, and it warms their hearts to see how Hatters have banded together to take care of each other during a time of great adversity. Friends and family are gathering items for their loved ones who cannot leave the house themselves, and the community has really come together to support local businesses to continue to keep them afloat.
It’s no accident they ended up in this community they have come to love and appreciate so much. When Carole and Brendan decided to move from South Korea, they decided on Medicine Hat without ever having seen the city. Carole’s list of “must haves” for the future home were that is had to be big enough to have at least one sushi restaurant, not big enough for an Ikea, had chinooks, and was close to family that lived in Calgary. As well, they wanted a home with a lower cost of living that would allow them to give time and attention to their young family.
Armed with MBA’s from McGill, the Hillson’s moved to Medicine Hat and began looking for a business to invest in. During this time, Brendan in particular was dismayed at what people were eating in North America after living 10 years overseas. Highly processed food had become the norm, and options for real food were slim to none.
In the Hillson’s experience, everywhere you go the world there is some good bread product highlighting local flavour. In Vietnam, you have a beautiful submarine on a French style baguette. A rickshaw driver in Kuala Lumper is eating roti and chai. In India, naan and samosas take centre stage as the carb de jour. Seeing a gap in the market for providing incredible bread products to the city, Brendan walked into McBride’s and told the owner at the time, Charlie, that he was thinking of buying a bakery and the rest is history.
When the McBride’s was purchased, they were making large quantities of hotdog and hamburger buns for the base at Suffield, local hotels, and restaurants. This didn’t leave a lot of space to think about what the creative items they really wanted to create. The Hillson’s eliminated the mass production element of the bakery to allow them to focus on artisanal products which began with their now famous Sourdough loaf.
Not only does the community of Medicine Hat support McBrides, they support the community as well. Through a variety of fundraisers, The Hillson’s have donated over $30,000 back to the causes such as SARC, Mother Theresa School, Meals for Moms, the Community Warmth program, and local citizens facing adversity such as serious health conditions.
McBride’s best-selling products are the Ring Donuts, Sausage Rolls, Apple Fritters, Turtles, and Bakers Bread, with these 5 products accounting for approximately 20% of their overall sales. In addition to the more classic bakery fare, Carole and Brendan added on items such as chocolate cranberry sourdough, keto products, and their very popular bagels. Other local producers such as Deerview Meats, Sammy’s Little India, and Sweet Pure Honey are also available on the shelves to compliment your purchase.
The Hillson’s live by the philosophy that if it isn’t high quality, they won’t sell it. By focussing on items that they can do far better than everybody else in their home kitchen, they have been able to capitalize on food trends. Carole and Brendan’s approach to the community is what they call a “Love Offensive”. Free toast and free coffee in the store (currently on hiatus due to potential contamination), what they give to local charities, their support for the student’s association at the college; it’s all love put out into the community. It is more important now than ever that we give that love back to them.
To place an order with McBride’s Bakery call 403-527-6811. You can also visit their storefront while maintaining social distancing at 1791 Dunmore Road SE, Medicine Hat, Alberta. Check them out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pg/McBridesBakeryMH to see daily specials and updates as the environment changes.