What is it about these mountains that draw people from all over the world and then won’t let some of them go? What makes some people toss their secure, nine-to-five job out the window in exchange for pushing a chairlift button? What makes them raise a family here? Open a business like Ed’s Bred? What gets under their skin and embeds itself so deep that Whistler becomes part of their soul?
We ask a variety of Whistler locals Why Whistler? In Video 2, we chat with Ed and Natasha Tatton, Co-Owners of BReD, an organic sourdough bakery that’s one hundred percent plant-based and vegan friendly. Originally from the UK, they talk about burnout, entrepreneurship, snowboarding and having the courage (and community) to take a leap of faith.
What Drew You to Whistler?
Natasha: We wanted to be in the mountains so we could snowboard. A friend said, well if you like snowboarding you should go to Canada, it has the best snow. I went to this place called Whistler and had a great season, you should go. So, we came to Whistler without knowing anything about it. We had the view of, if we get off the bus and don’t like it, we’ll just go somewhere else. We stayed!
I’d been working as an English teacher for fifteen years and moved up the ranks, landing in more of a marketing role. I was doing a lot of contracting, going to conferences and networking. I wasn’t getting back from it as much as I was putting in, and was feeling burnt out. I remember saying to my boss, I just want to go to a ski resort and push a button, be a liftie for a season. She looked at me like I was crazy – my career was taking off, how could I leave it all behind? I was overwhelmed. I wanted to snowboard. I was in my late twenties, after spending most of them working, now was the time to enjoy life.
I had a career and then moved to Whistler, a lot of people do that in reverse! I have no regrets. Once we got here, we loved the mountains so much that we didn’t want to leave.
Ed: We originally came for six months, and the plan was to go to Montreal for six months, and we’ve been in Whistler for seven years – we haven’t made it to Montreal yet! We came for the winter and stayed for the summer. It was amazing, the swimming in lakes, the biking and hiking. The outdoors drew us and kept us in Whistler.
What Makes Whistler Home?
Natasha: When I moved here, I met my people. I found an awesome group of people who were into outdoor sports, health and wellbeing, and the environment.
Ed: The people. The community. Our shop.
View this post on Instagram
What Do You Love About Whistler That Makes It Different From Anywhere Else?
Natasha: What I love about Whistler is the diversity. I’ve always lived in multi-cultural places and I love the way that people come from all over the world and work and live together here. Whistler welcomes immigrants and people from overseas and I find that they’re a lot more welcoming here than other places I’ve been to.
Ed: The amazing mountains. They’re incredible to explore, and it’s endless, you can just keep exploring.
What Do You Love to Do in the Mountains?
Natasha: In the winter, I snowboard and in the summer, I’m a hiker. I’ve dabbled in mountain biking, I’m a little terrified of the downhill – I’ve ended up in some pretty rocky places! But in the summer I love to hike, do a bit of paddleboarding and camping, but I really love running my business here and serving our local community.
What Gives Whistler Its Heart and Soul?
Natasha: You can come here any time of the year and find something fun to do.
Ed: The core people who are here, the older ones who had it really tough (and like to tell us), really keep us younger ones on our toes.
What’s the Whistler Community Like?
Natasha: The community here really loves to support small, independent businesses. They value someone who goes all in and works hard to serve the locals, and they’ll support you through thick and thin. We really saw that during the lockdown, we gained a great rapport with our local community, mainly with families, some seniors and the younger people doing some of the grassroots jobs in town.
View this post on Instagram
Ed: Whistler has supported us well as entrepreneurs, a young husband and wife team. I think a lot of people want to support local, small businesses and Whistler is a young town, so they’re ready to move forward and accept new things.
Natasha: I’d never have believed if you’d told me five years ago that I’d own a bakery. I didn’t come to Canada with a view of becoming an entrepreneur. This was an organic opportunity that simply presented itself.
I started volunteering for Whistler’s environmental group AWARE, but I was looking to make a bigger, positive impact, for the planet, animals and people too. I toyed with the idea of opening a vegan cafe. I’d worked as a raw, vegan chef for a summer in a cafe and was First Cook at Ski School while I was here, so I had some kitchen experience. At the same time, Ed was on his own journey making bread and it came to a point where we were able to team up and bring our two ideas together. I manage front of house, take care of the finances, hiring, human resources and lots of the backend stuff, he makes the bread!
Ed: Our business had a very grassroots start. We started slow and small, renting a small space in the kitchen I worked at (Alta Bistro). It just grew. The community wanted it to get bigger and bigger.
I’ve worked in kitchens for over 20 years (since I was 13). I’ve always had a dream of opening up some sort of restaurant. I found sourdough about 12 years ago and fell in love with the simplicity of it, but also how complex it can be. With Natasha, she had the drive to open a vegan business and I was fully on board with that. We saw a gap in the market and took the opportunity.
We turned the empty space we found into a fully working food and beverage business. So, plumbing, electrics, everything went in from scratch. It was hard work, but it meant we could use local trades. I think it’s part of living in a small place, you’ve got to rely on these people and support the local economy. Still to this day, they come in, they’re customers of ours and we can trade bread for their time!
Natasha: We’re both vegans. When you’re vegan, you can’t profit from animal cruelty, so it wouldn’t make sense to us to have a business that’s reliant on animal products. When we did our business research and looked at the trends around the world and in places like Vancouver, we could see a lot more plant-based places opening up and we thought it would be a good time to launch.
Whistler has an amazing vegan community; the Facebook page has around 1,500 members. We also get a lot of non-vegan customers who are interested in getting plant-based foods into their diet, so even though we’re vegan, a lot of our customers aren’t and they love it anyway!
View this post on Instagram
Ed: The vision and mission of BReD is to bring epic, vegan baking to Canada and the world. So many bakeries use animal products and our main mission is to change people’s perception.
With vegan baking, it can be tricky sometimes, and that’s what keeps it interesting for me. You have to use your brain and it’s a lot of trial and error. We’re known for our sourdough and our sourdough cinnamon buns. We use less sugar than traditional bakeries; we use organic sugars and let the flavours speak for themselves. We do seasonal stuff, like hot cross buns, so we sometimes bring our British roots to British Columbia.
Whistler’s accepted a plant-based business with open arms. With everyone being active and outdoorsy, they also know that cutting down on dairy and meat is good for your health, so I think that’s why we’re doing well. With Whistler’s proximity to Vancouver, it allows entrepreneurs a bigger reach; visitors and tourists support us on a weekly basis, which is another benefit to this location.
Is There a Baking / Snowboarding Balance?
Natasha: The location of our shop, at the base of Whistler Mountain right by the Creekside Gondola, means staff can get a few laps in, in the morning and do a later shift or vice versa. We’re so fortunate that the mountain is so close. We can walk to work and walk to the mountain in record time.
Ed: If you’re clever, you can definitely find work / life balance. We’ve lived in cities in the past, and after living in New Zealand for a year, I knew I liked the mountains and being outdoors and that they’d be part of my future. We’ve found our place in Canada.
Sourdough doesn’t wait for anyone, so we don’t have the 20 centimetre rule like some companies, but we make sure we’re flexible with people’s shifts so they can ride before or after work. Natasha and I are pretty much here all the time, I work a 13-hour shift, but we do get days off and we make sure we go up for a snowboard.
View this post on Instagram
We still enjoy the mountains, not as much as we’d want, but it’s all about that end goal and moving towards more and more free time. The business is our main focus and making sure that it’s strong enough to survive – we want to be here for the long haul, maybe open up more bakeries within the Sea to Sky Corridor, so we do make sure we have downtime when it’s slower. We close for a few weeks each year and take time to enjoy our backyard.
What Are the Challenges of Living in Whistler?
Natasha: Accommodation. It’s super hard to find somewhere to live, especially if you come at the beginning of winter and that has a knock-on effect on business owners. Retaining staff and finding them accommodation is tough, as I imagine it is for more ski resorts.
Ed: It’s a pretty expensive place to live, which drives a lot of people to have two or three jobs sometimes. We experienced that before opening the bakery and we’re not scared of hard work. People play hard and they work hard.
What Impact Did COVID-19 Have on Ed’s Bred?
Natasha: The lockdown happened on Ed’s birthday. We had to close down the shop and layoff our staff. A lot of them went back to their homelands and that was devastating. But we didn’t really have time to wallow. We launched an online shop within 24 hours and were collecting orders the very next day for pick up. Ed and I ran that as husband and wife, and we supported our team in Whistler as much as possible by giving them groceries every week, communicating with them and telling them what our plans were.
I think having the online shop now has actually added another feature to the business. Some of our semi-locals who come up from Vancouver can pre-order bread and we’ll have that ready for them when they get here. We didn’t have that before, so it’s elevated our business to a better level of customer service.
Ed: We had to pivot. We put everything on the line for this bakery, so we couldn’t sit back and see what was going to happen. It’s made us stronger. It made us look at what the customer needed and wanted. Within 24 hours, we managed to turn our in-store business fully online with scheduled pickups with no contact with us. It brought us closer to our customers. We know a lot of names now, and they saw that we didn’t rest on our laurels, we made it work.
What’s It Like to Work With Your Other Half?
Natasha: You go through really hard times, ups and downs, but, being together, you understand how hard the other one works and you can appreciate what they go through, so you can support each other really well. I recommend working with your partner; it’s like being on an adventure together.
The business has brought us closer together. Not only do we live together, but we work together side by side. We have a much better understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I think defining our roles and not stepping on each other’s toes has been a key factor in working together well.
We don’t spend as much time as we’d like to outside, enjoying the mountains, but we do make sure we get at least one day together to do that fun stuff. Over Christmas, we decided to close the shop so that people could spend time with their families. Family is very important here.
Ed: It’s great working together and driving the business forward, looking at new opportunities, working with new people and creating new breads and baked items, and then seeing customers enjoying them. Natasha is definitely my better half; she brings out the best in me. We always say that if only one of us was doing this, we’d get tired of hearing how much they’re working! Yes, we take business home and we talk about it all the time, but that’s how we’ve created such a strong business in such a hard, first 18 months.
View this post on Instagram
Locals, like Ed and Natasha of Ed’s Bred, are the beating heart of Whistler, which is made up of small business owners, passionate entrepreneurs and tireless workers who all love to revel in the mountains. This is #WhistlerNice.
Ross Reid is our talented videographer on this Ed’s Bred project. To see more of his work visit his website.