New Brunswick

Hillsborough heritage church finds new life as business centre

A church in Hillsborough that is over a century old was saved when a German bakery moved in.

German baker Oliver Hofer cooks up new life for church abandoned by congregation in 2011

Oliver Hofer bought the former Hillsborough Baptist Church in 2015. (CBC)

A church in Hillsborough that is over a century old was saved when a German bakery moved in.

Oliver Hofer runs his bakery, rents office space and even lives in the church.

The former church is now home to several businesses. (CBC)
After the Hillsborough Baptists Church congregation outgrew the original, castle-like structure, it moved into a larger church on Salem Road in 2011.

Before setting up in Hillsborough last year, Hofer ran Hofer's Bakery in Dieppe for more than 10 years. 

He decided to move because he needed more space and he was looking to leave the city.

"I like to be out of town a little bit, just the cost of living [in a smaller town] is easier," he said.

Bought church last year

Oliver's Bakery offers a view to some stained-glass windows in the former church. (CBC)
Hofer knew Sandy Philips, who bought the church in 2013, and approached him about renting space for his bakery. 

After Philips told him he would have to buy it, Hofer took the plunge.

Along with the help of his grown children, Hofer began emptying the church of leftover materials, which is an ongoing process.

Oliver's Bakery now operates out of the church's old gymnasium.

Squash that is grown in a hobby farm in Hofer's backyard is used in his baked goods. 

Hofer and his nephew, a full-time employee at the bakery, live in apartments on the church's top floor.

Businesses approached

The congregation at Hillsborough Baptist Church outgrew the church building in 2011 and moved to a larger location. (CBC)
After a family doctor approached him inquiring about renting office space, more and more businesses approached Hofer.

Now he no longer thinks of it as a church.

"I see it more like a centre. There are doctors here, the blood clinic is here, a bakery is here, a photo studio is here and foot reflexology [clinic] is here, and it brings people back into this building."

The sanctuary, which features ornate, jewel-toned stained glass windows and detailed wood ceilings, is unused.

Hofer said he has plans for it that he is unwilling to reveal at this time.

"I like the sanctuary, the woodwork, and the stained glass, and I like the architecture on it," he remarked.

He is intent on preserving the character of the space.

Gesturing to the high wood ceilings, he said it would have been a shame to lose the building.

According to Hofer, Hillsborough residents have approached him to express their thanks for saving the building.