Winnipeg social media may never recover.
KUB Bakery, the nearly century-old family-owned bakery that produces the unique chewy rye bread family-owned for generations, reluctantly closed its doors this week, another casualty of the pandemic and its high-inflation aftermath.
KUB, named after Kucher’s Ukrainian bakery, after founder Alex Kucher, had been grappling with declining sales and skyrocketing input costs. Added to that, the bakery’s retail store suffered a significant loss of business over the summer due to all-season road work on Erin Street.
Ross Einfeld, whose family bought the bakery in 1982, said he’s talking to potential buyers; there’s a chance the 99-year-old name lives on.
“I don’t want to get people’s hopes up, but I would like to see the brand continue even if I have no financial interest in (it),” Einfeld said Wednesday morning in the mostly empty retail space except for a few packages. of cinnamon buns and rolls.
“I would love it if it could make it to 100. I could say I worked there for 40 years.”
Einfeld said he hasn’t paid himself since May.
“I have been living off my credit card. We did everything possible to keep employees paid and vendors paid. Sometimes we make it, sometimes we don’t,” she said.
Einfeld’s family has weathered hard times in the past; a fire destroyed the original KUB location on Stella Avenue in 2008.
“We were underinsured,” he said.
But that was then.
When the boiler blew up two weekends ago, he paid $2,400 to fix it. Then on Monday the oven died.
“It was time to pull the plug. This is why the shutdown was so abrupt,” she said.
At one point, KUB’s annual revenue was close to $4 million.
“When you think of the bakery in Manitoba, literally (KUB is) the first thing that comes to mind,” said Shaun Jeffrey, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Food Service Association, noting that he ate salami with bread rye with his father.
The closure is yet another example of the difficulties the hospitality industry continues to face.
“It’s not even a two-headed monster; it’s a six-headed monster,” Jeffrey said, citing higher production costs, inflation-shocked customers buying less and companies still reeling from pandemic losses.
“The reality is that we are not even close to getting back to normal.”
Many Winnipeggers were saddened by the news.
Laurie Aftanas devoured her first slice of KUB cinnamon bun 25 years ago. Since then, she’s been a staple at her family’s Hawk Lake cabin.
“We ate that for breakfast like every day,” said Aftanas, 27.
There’s a picture of her holding a slice at age two on the cabin’s refrigerator door, she said, adding that she’s broken KUB bread with California friends and family.
“I’m sad… it was such a nostalgic thing. I (told my mom): ‘You must fill your freezer with cinnamon buns before they close,’” said Aftanas, who assumed he would share the beloved buns with his future children.
KUB rye has been a constant in Brad Murray’s life.
“Going to social gatherings was always there,” Murray said. “I used to expose myself to that… all the time.”
Val Officer, 63, called the bakery “an institution” that would exist forever.
“You would always see people coming back from Winnipeg to other places with KUB bread,” he said.
Einfeld is talking to others in the industry, trying to get jobs for his 30 employees, many of whom have been at KUB for decades.
“It’s sad. Many earn minimum wage, some speak little English, but they are good people and very good workers,” he said.
News of the closure upset Jon Hochman, owner of Gunn’s Bakery on Selkirk Avenue, another city institution.
“Winnipeg is known for rye bread, and KUB is definitely one of those businesses that has given the city that reputation,” Hochman said.
He read about the anguish of Manitobans online.
“If people showed that support while these businesses existed, they would have these businesses for another 100 years,” he said, adding that he has seen the price of flour, yeast, seeds and twisted ties skyrocket.
And, the talent pool is “as shallow as ever,” he said.
Einfeld was in talks for nearly four weeks with a prospective buyer who backed out at the last minute last week.
Elsewhere, profits were being cut in every way. His trucks were coming off the lease in April and dealers were having trouble finding replacements, which would have cost him nearly 50 percent more than he was already paying.
KUB had been forced to increase its prices, but was only able to get away with it so much.
Earlier this month, Prairie Flour Mills filed a lawsuit against KUB seeking $34,129.60 in unpaid bills, plus interest, in its claim statement.
Einfeld regrets having to close with unpaid accounts.
“Looks like we won’t be able to afford Prairie Flour. It’s a sad and hard fact about business. We are not different. We have been burned by vendors in the past,” he said.
A couple of years ago, KUB lost $60,000 when his former dealer who handled his Costco account went bankrupt. KUB bread was available at all three Winnipeg Costco stores and was the company’s largest account.
Neither Prairie Flour Mills nor its attorney responded to requests for comment Wednesday.
Gabby is a huge fan of people, writing, and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.
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Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news for the Free Press since 1989. During those years, he has written about a series of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) of the fortunes of many local businesses.
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