You can own this Kamloops bakery for $1,000 — if you win a contest
Erwin’s Bakery owners holding contest to find new owner
A pair of bakers in Kamloops, B.C., are getting ready to hang up their chef's hats and hand over their business to the next generation of bakery owners, but they're going about it in an unusual way.
Robyn and Shawn Haley, owners of Erwin's Fine Baking & Delicatessen, plan to find their successor through a contest that takes into account candidates' baking skills and business acumen.
"In a perfect world, it would be somebody who loves the business and has the commitment to quality that we have," Robyn Haley said.
Erwin's is a Kamloops institution located north of what's known as the Red Bridge along Mt. Paul Way. The Haleys purchased the bakery, which was established in 1971, from the original owners in 2008. While it relocated from the city's downtown core to its current location in 2017, it's remained a local favourite.
"I'm a person who's a fanatic about good bread," longtime customer Jack Jones told CBC.
"I like their sourdough … but they make other good bread too, you know, their baguettes and so on."
"Their sandwiches are second to none," said Howie Reimer, executive director of the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association.
How it works
Most people would look at selling the business, but the Haleys aren't most people.
"We've watched other business owners attempt to sell their businesses. Some of them have had them on the market for as long as 18 or 19 years," Robyn said, adding that doing this through a contest gives them more time to transition the business to someone else.
"We also want the next people to really be on solid ground and debt is the killer for businesses. If you're debt free, you're able to react to the economy, take on new opportunities. It just gives you so many more possibilities."
To participate, hopeful bakery owners must be Canadian residents over the age of 19, and write an essay explaining why they deserve to take over, including details about their baking and business experience.
The Haleys will review and grade entries, and the top 10 finalists will be assessed by their trusted professionals to choose a winner.
Candidates will have to pay a $1,000 entry fee and a minimum of 500 people must enter for the contest to move forward. The owners say the fee and minimum entries are to help recoup the money they would have made if they'd sold the business in the traditional way.
"We felt that the $1,000 entry fee was set high enough to make sure that the people who are entering are actually qualified and have the skillset that it would take," Robyn said. But, she said, not so high it would prevent people from applying.
If they don't get enough entries over the next six months, entrants will be refunded $1,000 less the application processing costs. If the contest goes ahead, candidates won't get their money back if they don't win.
David Carter, associate teaching professor in the tourism management department at Thompson Rivers University, said this approach to finding a new owner is "quite fascinating."
"I've never seen anything like this before. It sounds like something out of a movie or a TV show, like they're going to get to take over a chocolate factory if you win the contest."
He said that finding a new owner through a contest is generating buzz around the bakery that is invaluable.
Carter noted that while the Haleys won't necessarily benefit from the contest, the future owner will.
"It's somewhat altruistic," he said.
With files from Jenifer Norwell and David Ball