Up on Hastings Street in the Heights neighbourhood in Burnaby is an award-winning local bakery, the Valley Bakery — serving all kinds of deliciousness.
From buttercream cakes and cookies to pies and breads and everything in between, the local family-owned bakery has served Metro Vancouver with some of the best European baked goods over the decades.
The original owner, George Kuyer, opened the doors to the bakery in 1957 before passing it on to his son, Jack, in 1979.
Since then, Jack has braved the storm with the bakery through the wins and the losses, the ups and downs.
But now, after almost 44 years, Jack is ready to bid farewell to the legacy that he and his family have built.
As Jack Kuyer rolls out the dough for the last batch of his best-selling tarts, he informs the NOW that the bakery will close its doors to the community on Aug. 19 as he is now stepping away for a new role: retirement.
It's a role he says he is very much looking forward to. Despite the sadness that comes with closing down, Kuyer said he was “too old” now to be working over 12 hours a day.
Kuyer said he’s going to be turning 73 and is finally getting to retire.
“I'm sad. But I'm also excited to not have to only work … I'd like to play. So, that part I'm looking forward to.”
The bakery has been a huge part of who he is, he acknowledged.
“I started working here when I was probably about 14,” he noted.
“I've been here a long time, which is part of why we did pretty good, because I know the industry in and out. But at some point, you get a little bored doing the same thing all the time. (But) I’m gonna miss it. Not only did I own the bakery, but I was probably one of our best customers, because I really liked a lot of the pastries and the different items that we made,” he laughed.
Kuyer was already mulling over the idea of retiring and passing the torch on to the next buyer pre-COVID, he said, having almost reached a deal. But the pandemic struck, and Kuyer thought he would keep working until things returned to normal so he could sell again.
“I tried hard to keep the bakery alive … after me,” Kuyer said.
But the times haven’t been the easiest — with inflation, high rents, property taxes and a labour shortage.
He decided to close shop instead, keeping the legacy alive till the end.
Over the years, the bakery has built an “extremely loyal” customer base, he said, one he will miss.
But he said he can’t wait to spend time with his grandchildren, try riding his motorcycle, travelling and doing other things outside of baking.
“It's been a rewarding career. I've always enjoyed it. But I also enjoy other things. And it's time to give other things a chance,” he said.
“At my age, I could have weeks left or I could have a few years left, but you don't know, and having time where you're healthy enough to do things is the key.”
“I'm sad to close," he said. "But I'm happy to leave."