johnson family bakery toronto

Laid off from his high-end retail gig Toronto man starts up family bakery business

A Toronto man laid off from his luxury retail job has started up a family bakery business, and some of his products have been selling out in just a couple of hours.

Chuck Johnson (above on the left, in the hat) is behind Johnson Family Bakery, a baking business he started a few months ago. And it very much is a family business. Chuck does the baking, his wife helps out with signage and bagging, and one son does deliveries.

"The real force behind this is the family," the website says. "Without the family, I'm not getting up at 1 a.m. to bake, or sell, or blog, or any of these things."

"The love and pride of your children is very powerful stuff."

Johnson trained at the Stratford Chef School in his twenties, but disillusioned with the industry and the challenges of his dream of opening a restaurant, didn't complete the program and immediately moved to Toronto, where he began a career at Harry Rosen.

Sadly, the store kept going in and out of lockdown throughout 2020, and the management role Johnson had worked his way up to over 20 years was restructured during the summer. He and much of the other staff were laid off after the end-of-year lockdowns.

It was in January, while homeschooling his three children, that Johnson got into baking bread, giving loaves away to friends and neighbours.

In early March, friend Chris Murie, whose children go to school with Johnson's and owns pub The Dizzy, suggested Johnson use his patio space to sell his baked goods, "and basically kicked the whole project into gear" according to Johnson.

"My goal was to produce only very high-quality, organic bread and be flexible where the business might lead," Johnson tells blogTO.

He started out by giving away sample mini baguettes, and it was such a success he decided to continue with the customer-facing patio model.

"Since then, we've been trying to be out on the patio almost every day, rain or shine, meeting people and selling. We've both steadily added new products to the set up based on customer demand," says Johnson.

"The business is good and it's a really fun, community feel. Weekends in particular are busy."

For example, last weekend he added Swedish sourdough cinnamon buns (also known as kanelbulle) to the menu and the batch of 40 sold out in two hours. You can also expect small fancy sourdough boules, loaves and baguettes.

"It's a lot for my home kitchen," says Johnson. 

He does deliveries and offers his products on a subscription basis to fill out the weekdays (contact him to set that up), and is currently looking for a way to ramp up the amount of space he has and his production levels.

Johnson's hope is to eventually grow the business into a full-fledged bakery and cafe with a physical storefront selling baked goods, prepared foods, pizza and weekend brunch.

The only way to make that dream a reality is to keep selling bread, though, so if you find yourself hankering for some sourdough and needing to stretch your legs head over to The Dizzy from 12:30 p.m. t0 4 p.m. You may want to go earlier versus later, though, if you want to get your hands on something like those small-batch cinnamon buns.

Lead photo by

Johnson Family Bakery

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