East Van, get excited: within the next couple of weeks construction will be underway on Erin Ireland’s new 1800sqft ‘To Live For’ brick-and-mortar bakery and cafe, located at 1508 Nanaimo St.
To go from selling an established line of baked goods out of a commissary kitchen to opening a brick-and-mortar cafe takes guts – even when you are Erin Ireland and can look to a twelve-year track record of meeting the demands of a loyal following for reassurance. That’s why it was particularly inspiring to meet with the maker of ‘Vancouver’s favourite banana bread’ and champion of the plant-based lifestyle, at what is soon to be the first location of To Live For Cafe in order to to watch her take the proverbial ‘leap’.
As we enter the space to take a quick look around, Ireland admits: “I’m a bit terrified…I’m still in shock that it’s actually happening (I never ever pictured being a bakery owner growing up) but also so excited…I think I’ll be living in the kitchen for the first year. I’m excited to meet customers and be very hands on.”
Right now the voluminous space is filled with loads of natural light and very little else, but the concrete on concrete aesthetic seen in the pictures below is only temporary. The build-out, which will involve a production kitchen, counter space, display cases, and seating for 18, will begin within the next week or two. To listen to Erin describe it, the cafe will have quiet nooks, window seating and areas of open views to the kitchen.
Once complete, all To Live For production (which currently supplies 150 cafes and shops across the Lower Mainland out of a small commissary) will migrate to this new, bigger space. The expansion will allow Ireland to grow the To Live For brand from her famous loaves and cookies, to include a full-on bread and pastry program (think sourdough bread, croissants, pain au chocolate, cinnamon buns, Nanaimo bars, cakes, and cupcakes). The cafe will also be offering three kinds of house made dairy-free soft serve – a collaboration between Ireland and Salvatore Boccarossa of Passione Gelato.
As Ireland explains: “I am so excited to share how amazing plant-based treats can be… I want customers to walk in, enjoy the welcoming space, watch our cakes being decorated through the glass walls, and leave in disbelief that everything was made animal-free. We’re also going to display a timer with the exact time that our banana bread bake is finishing so that customers can taste the product that started it all, hot out of the oven.”
Taking a page from her pals at The Juice Truck, Ireland also hopes to eventually host pop-ups with other plant-based entrepreneurs and use her Nanaimo Street square footage for fun community-oriented events. “We truly want this to be a hub within the community,” she says.
“I’ve always dreamt of a bakery location that’s a little bit off the beaten path. I’ve never pictured being on a bustling street. I love that we are in a somewhat quiet neighbourhood in the base of a small residential building, not too far from The Drive. I also love that it’s close to 1st Ave. and that there’s tons of easy parking so that people from all over the lower mainland have an easier time coming to visit.”
To make sure everything stays on track with the food, room and business, Ireland will be leaning on French-trained GM/Pastry Chef Thibault Champel, GM Andrea Polz, and her husband, Darren Yada. Other partners on board include Table Architecture, April Tidey Design, Schedio Spaces, and Harmony Pacific Contracting.
Anticipated opening is slated for late summer / early fall. The cafe will be open for both day and evening service, with the latter being from Thursday to Saturday, to start. We hope to have more pictures and details to share as this project inches closer to opening. In the meantime, follow To Live For Bakery on Instagram here.