By the time I arrive at the bakery the sun has only just risen. All across the region bleary- eyed school children are being roused from their beds while an army of commuters fill thermoses with hot stuff before loading into vehicles and heading off to work. The day is just beginning. And yet at Roux Bakehouse – a cute bakery-meets-café-meets-grocer nestled into Kitchener’s vibrant Belmont Village strip – things have been rolling for hours.

I step in the front door and am immediately seized by the action all around me. Towards the back of the cozy five-hundred-and- something-square-foot space, bakery co- owner (and lead baker) Hayley Turnbull feeds croissant dough through a dough sheeter. Just a few feet to Hayley’s right, baker Jessicca pulls a batch of freshly baked loaves from the place’s hard-working oven. To Hayley’s left, pans of unbaked tomato and herb focaccia proof on a crowded counter. Directly behind her, still-warm sourdough loaves (with names like ‘Country’ and ‘Whole Wheat’ and ‘Pain de Mie’) rest on a pan rack – waiting their turn to be set out on the simple wooden shelving unit behind the counter up front. Rich aromas of raw and baked sourdough merge with the cacophonic sounds of baking machinery – creating a most unique multi-sensory symphony. Things are rolling indeed. 

‘Early mornings are definitely the name of the game in our business,’ Roux co-owner (and Hayley’s business partner) Amy Grimba tells me while she straightens a row of bagged coffee beans (roasted by Roux at KW Coffee Collective) perched along a minimalist wooden shelf. As I lift my Nikon to fire a few shots of the Roux-branded bags, Amy seems to balk. ‘I was sort of hoping you wouldn’t shoot these,’ she laughs – half-covering the bags with a free hand. Before I can ask why, she continues: ‘While the bakery’s core branding is complete, and exemplifies what we’re about as a business, we’re still fiddling with package design. These bags,’ she adds, ‘like most of our packaging, will undergo a facelift – when we manage to find the time.’ 

Ah yes – time: a most precious commodity that’s been in very short supply at Roux Bakehouse ever since Amy and Hayley first opened the business just this past September, during Belmont Village’s bustling annual Bestival neighbourhood festival. ‘It’s been a whirlwind, that’s for sure,’ Amy laughs while she continues to make sure that everything at the front of the space is neat and tidy. ‘Hayley and I met less than two years ago in a commercial kitchen space we were both using. At the time I was selling dairy products across Waterloo Region under the moniker ‘The Milkman’s Daughter’ while Hayley was offering baked goods at the Kitchener Farmers’ Market as ‘Palmer Baked Goods’.’ It wasn’t long before the two entrepreneurs realized that they shared a dream of opening their own brick and mortar storefront. And so they decided to do it – together. From meet cute to business partners in the blink of an eye. Almost. 

By March of last year, Hayley and Amy located this space in Belmont Village and began doing all the necessary things: demolition, renovations, conceiving what the heck they’d call their new business. ‘We ended up with ‘Roux Bakehouse’ because, in the parlance of cooking, a roux is a mixture of flour and fat – usually butter – cooked together to thicken sauces,’ Amy tells me. ‘Since Hayley’s a baker and I work with dairy products and we came together to create this business that offers both baking and dairy, ‘Roux’ only makes sense.’ Indeed. 

Compared to Hayley’s kitchen at the back of house, which is all hustle-bustle, the front area – Amy’s domain – feels calm. Relaxed. 

Zen-like, even. I look around the bright space, which is bathed in ethereal morning sunlight. All light woods and off-white tones. I look closer. There are the aforementioned bags of beans, of course, and stocked shelves of freshly baked bread – all made from three-day fermented sourdough which, Hayley tells me, makes for ‘way better taste and easier digestibility.’ (I can confirm at least the first of these two claims to be true.) But there’s so much more. A display case of pastries, for starters – featuring everything from sourdough cinnamon buns and seasonal sweet and savoury danishes to croissants and pains au chocolat. And rows of house-made packaged meringues and shortbreads and crackers (in their interim packaging). There are plenty of intriguing items from third-party vendors, too – including bone broth hot chocolates(by Beck’s Broth), artisanal marshmallows (by Nibble & Nosh), Roux-branded ceramic travel mugs (by Jacpot Pottery), wildflower honey (by Eby Family), linen bread bags (by Lot8), and a selection of culinary-themed earrings (by Studs and Succulents). ‘We liken this place to a community hub,’ Amy tells me when I ask about the unique selection, ‘and offer items from regional small-scale producers whose values align with ours.’ Fresh. Local. Sustainable. Community-focused. 

A major player in Amy’s domain is a refrigerated unit that holds an assortment of cheeses from Udder Way, milks and yogurts by Eby Manor, and butter from Alliston and St Brigid’s creameries. ‘The vast majority of our dairy products are crafted with a2 milk,’ Amy tells me, ‘which is gut-friendly and easier to digest than other milks.’ A freezer unit features containers of house-made soups (‘Chicken and Barley’, ‘Lentil and Root Vegetable’, ‘Sausage and Kale’) and tins of house-made ‘Cinnamon Pecan Bread Pudding’ – all available for reheating or baking at home. 

And then there’s the place’s shiny espresso machine – an integral part of the business that serves to transform this fresh enterprise from simple bakery-grocer to full-fledged bakery- grocery-café. ‘We have regulars who come in for coffee every day,’ Amy tells me. ‘In fact,’ she adds, pointing to a two-seater set up outside, in the snow, ‘we get folks drinking their coffees and enjoying croissants or danishes or what have you outside all year round.’ While Amy and I converse, a couple – the first customers of the day – saunters in for cinnamon buns and a couple of americanos. As if on cue, they sit down at the outdoor table, ready to enjoy the brisk, sunny morning. And so it begins. 

While Roux Bakehouse has become a staple of the Belmont Village set, it’s also earned a solid reputation further afield, with several of our region’s top foodie establishments featuring Roux’s baked goods. Places like Eby Street Bodega (Kitchener), who use custom Roux hoagie buns for their distinctive sandwiches; odd duck wine & provisions (Kitchener), who often incorporate Roux baked goods into their extemporary menus; and Disko Coffee (Cambridge), that has Roux croissants, pains au chocolat, and more on offer in its magazine café. And you also can find Roux baked goods in Eby Manor’s (Waterloo) farm store. 

So what’s next for this successful upstart? ‘We’ve got lunches starting next week,’ Amy tells me (which means that by the time you’re reading this you should be able to grab a loaded savoury pastry or sandwich at Roux), ‘and we plan on becoming a pick-up location for a local CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) come spring.’ With a laugh, she adds: ‘And we still do have to finish the packaging design process.’ She pauses before declaring: ‘Honestly, we just want to continue to be a place for great food and community.’

Another customer comes through the door. And another. It occurs to me that Roux Bakehouse is perfectly poised to be the sort of place Amy and Hayley imagine it should be: a hub that feeds a community – and nourishes the soul.