Rocket Bakery moves on from headquarters after pandemic forces leap to new location

After a 10-year run at 272 Water St. in downtown St. John's, Rocket Bakery is pulling up roots and heading on down the road.

'I'm feeling enthusiastic,' says co-owner

Rocket Bakery co-owner Kelly Mansell says she's enthusiastic about the move to another location on Water Street. (CBC)

After a 10-year run at 272 Water St. in downtown St. John's, Rocket Bakery is pulling up roots and heading on down the road.

But the popular downtown bakery isn't closing. Instead it's just moving a few buildings down from its current location, a move brought on by the squeeze of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

"For us it's great because we can be a leaner operation, which is key right now," co-owner Kelly Mansell told CBC News on Thursday. 

The new storefront will lay a new foundation for the company's headquarters at 294 Water St. The location, Mansell said, has historical elements that the owners are excited about. 

The six-week shutdown in March — restrictions put in place by the provincial government to close non-essential businesses to thwart the spread of COVID-19 — had cleaned out the business, she said, forcing the decision for a new beginning elsewhere. 

The new Rocket Bakery will have the same feeling as the original, according to Mansell. (CBC)

"Mark [McGann] and I were in the kitchen long nights just by ourselves, making fish cakes and soup, and we bought a bag of flour, made some bread, sold the bread, bought another bag of flour. So we built up from nothing again," she said. 

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"I'm feeling enthusiastic. It can't get much darker than that. But we got through it, and it was because of our customers coming and doing the curbside pickup and keeping us going, and because of … the CERB and the wage subsidy."

Still, Mansell said ownership knew it was time for a change. Even before the pandemic, it had been a tough few years at Rocket, citing the economy, construction and Snowmageddon. 

"It's been one thing after another, so we saw the writing on the wall and decided we have to make the leap," she said. 

Rocket Bakery has been at this location for a decade. In the new year it will move a few doors down on Water Street. (CBC)

Mansell says the new location will have the same vibes as the one embraced by customers for the last decade. 

Rocket hopes to break into other markets to find more eyes for its products.

"We're going to be putting more emphasis on our wholesale business, meaning what can we sell to different stores," Mansell said.  

"Our cookies are at Colemans and Belbin's right now. How can we expand that?"

Owners expect Rocket to be closed briefly while its new location and production facility is being set up. But Rocket's other two locations, in Churchill Square and in Mount Pearl, will remain open.

Mansell said some staff will be laid off during the move, but added she expects to have everyone back when the new store opens. 

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With files from Cecil Haire