Syrian refugee rises to success at Sudbury's Golden Grain Bakery

It's been almost one year since the Qarqouz family moved to Sudbury, Ont. after fleeing their home country of Syria. The refugee family arrived at the Sudbury airport on December 31, 2015, and shortly after, the patriarch, Hussein Qarqouz, was hired at the Golden Grain Bakery.
Shortly after Hussien Qarquoz arrived with his family in Sudbury, Ont., on December 31, 2015, he was offered a job at Golden Grain bakery. Since then he has introduced traditional spinach and potato pies called fatayer to the downtown bakery. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

It's been almost one year since the Qarqouz family moved to Sudbury, Ont. after fleeing their home country of Syria.

Sudbury's first refugee family arrived at the airport on December 31, 2015.

Shortly after that, the patriarch, Hussein Qarqouz, was hired at the Golden Grain Bakery in downtown Sudbury.

He had been a baker in his home country.

"I am happy I can work now — the family at Golden Grain gave me a job," he told CBC News.  "I am happy to work as a baker."

The Qarqouz family is nearing the end of its refugee sponsorship from St Andrew's United Church.

Joanne Ross, the chair of the refugee assistance committee said when they were first choosing a family to support, they had to go through hundreds of applicants.

The church eventually decided on the Qarqouz family because of Hussein's background as a baker, Ross said.

"I actually immediately thought of Golden Grain in Sudbury, one of our institutions," she said.

"They're not only a great bakery, but a great staff and family."

Ross added that she had a feeling the business would be supportive of the new refugee family.

The family-run Golden Grain Bakery has been in operation for more than 80 years and is currently owned by John Andlar.

"We heard Hussein was coming into Sudbury and he was a baker. So we thought we could give him an opportunity to work with us. It's going really well. He's a hard worker," said Andlar.

Language was a big barrier when Qarqouz first started working at the bakery, but that didn't last long, Andlar said.

The owner of Golden Grain Bakery in Sudbury, Ontario, John Andlar gave baker Hussein Qarqouz a job shortly after the refugee family arrived from Syria. He says the introduction of fateyer to the bakery has brought in new customers. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Ross also recalled visiting Golden Grain a few weeks after Qarqouz started working there.

"Despite the fact that he spoke very little English, they shared the language of the ovens and baking," she said.

Hussein has even introduced the fatayer to Golden Grain's staff and customers. Fatayer is a Middle Eastern pastry, described as a pocket of dough or a pie with various fillings, like meat, spinach or potato.

The response from customers has been great, Andlar said.

"People are coming in. People that we haven't even seen before and they come in and they buy [the fatayer] and they buy other stuff," he said.

Qarqouz said he hopes more people will try the specialty pies.

Since moving to Sudbury Qarqouz and his wife have had another child. They now have four boys.

The family is very happy to be creating a life in Canada, he said, while expressing his gratitude to Sudbury's people and municipal government.

"My boys are very happy in Sudbury," he said.