Makenna Caron stands in the bakery at Cookies on Call in Meadow Lake, Sask. The community has a vibrant bakery scene. But rising costs, supply chain woes and changing behaviors due to COVID are putting pressure on local shops.Julia Peterson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 04, 2022 at 11:59

By Julia Peterson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Every weekday, Jennifer Madrid makes trays and trays of donuts — plain, spiced, covered in icing and sprinkles, jelly-filled — for the Meadow Lake Bakery. 

“They’re all my favourite,” she said. 

Baking the donuts — the bakery’s specialty, along with fresh bread and Filipino buns — is “not hard, but not easy, either,” she added.

“It takes time to measure all the ingredients and mix it all — and I think the secret ingredient in there is the love. You need the love to do it.”

The love is certainly there from customers, too. 

Brayden Boyer has been coming to the Meadow Lake Bakery since he was a kid, when he first fell in love with the jelly-filled donuts. Now, he recommends the bakery to all his friends. 

“I tell them that it’s the best place to get donuts — better than Tim Hortons,” he said. “And they have nice people here.”

But the bakery has had a hard few years.

First, during higher waves of COVID-19 cases in the northwest, Madrid worried about getting infected at work.

“I have family — I have little ones at home to take care of — so I have to make sure that I don’t get COVID so we don’t close and we don’t transfer it to the customers,” she said.

Some customers who used to get their weekly bread from the bakery started doing all their shopping in one place, at a big grocery store, during the pandemic. On top of that, staples like flour, sugar and spices have become much more expensive over the last few months.

“Right now, we’ve been struggling very much because supply costs went up,” Madrid said. “Every time, every delivery, they go up.”

She thinks the costs might not have increased so much in cities like Regina or Saskatoon — but in Meadow Lake, where everything has to be trucked in, she is feeling the pinch. She has already had to raise prices twice this year and open the bakery for fewer hours every day. 

“Still, the community supports us, and we’re so grateful for that,” she said. “We appreciate that.”

And so, she says, “we keep on trying.”

Located kitty-corner to the Meadow Lake Bakery, Cookies on Call has also been adapting to a changing local food landscape. It used to serve more ready-to-eat treats in the shop — but now, according to bakery employee Makenna Caron, they’re seeing fewer walk-in customers.

Instead of filling up the display cases, the focus has shifted to making custom cake and cupcake orders. 

Over the last few weeks, Caron has been busy with graduation-themed desserts, and she said people have come to the shop with some pretty creative requests. 

“We can do chocolate and vanilla — the classics. But we can also do confetti carrot cake, red velvet cake, and we’ve done a banana cake before. We’ve got a whole bunch of icing flavours, too, like lemon and mocha.”

Although she’s also run into some supply chain issues at the bakery — cake boards, in particular, have been in short supply — she’s optimistic about the months ahead, she said. 

“These are things that people in town really do want to order.”

This item reprinted with permission from The StarPhoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan