We’d like to whisper Sweet Somethings into your ear; there’s a new coffee shop and bakery in Dunbar Village and it’s making our hearts flutter! At the end of February 2018 the cozy spot opened and it’s a wonderful place to hang out and enjoy a coffee and a baked treat.
Owner Emma Irvine is the industrious and delightful owner. Remarkably, she is juggling her business and finishing off her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Commerce at UBC. She’s already putting her minor in Commerce to good use as she applies her business savvy skills to her budding enterprise.
Emma has an entrepreneurial spirit – in addition to starting Sweet Somethings she also created a chocolate bar for a university course and is putting her idea into production.
Long time Dunbar residents will recall this location was previously home to Butter Baked Goods and for many decades it housed Ideal Bakery.
Sweet Somethings’ customers share many fond stories about Ideal Bakery owner Mabel Pickett. Emma believes Mabel was roughly the same age (early 20s) when she started her bakery. She says, “I hope to develop my business to be as successful as hers was.”
Emma says, “Some senior customers have lived in the area for 60 to 80 years. It makes me really happy to have opened a bakery and stay true to how they grew up in the area.”
The retro style café makes customers feel right at home. She says, “I want people to feel like grandma’s in the back baking.”
The cheerful surrounding features gray and white striped wallpaper with robin’s egg blue wainscoting, black and white checkerboard flooring with drop leaf white tables and vintage chairs painted grey.
Emma does not appear to have any new business owner jitters. She explains, “My parents encourage me to be independent. They set me up for this in so many ways. I love to try new things and I enjoy creating.”
She designed the floor plan and acted as the general contractor during the renova-tion. She handled business applications, hired all of the trades, learned how to hang wallpaper, selected the décor, and yes, even learned how to bake. Emma is completely self-taught and with a relaxed confidence says, “You can learn anything from YouTube. If I see it most of the time I can make it.”
One acquisition she’s exceptionally happy about is the “the Ferrari of coffee machines” that makes a terrific cup of joe.
Timbertrain Coffee Roasters (located in East Vancouver) supplies the java that is roasted weekly. Emma describes the coffee as exhibiting “toffee notes with a lower acidity level.”
Sweet Somethings offers a full menu of specialty, pour over and brewed coffee in addition to tea. Emma is committed to supporting local producers and purchases tea from Westholme Tea Company on Vancouver Island. She carries a good selection of their organic, black, herbal, and green teas.
Tempting treats are always in rotation and presently range from butter and lemon tarts to lavender shortbread, scones, salted dark chocolate wafer cookies, muffins, cinnamon buns, cupcakes and vegan goodies. Custom cakes are also available to order.
“Cupcakes fly off the shelf. The minis are very popular,” says Emma.
Emma has a knack for cake decorating and is learning many secrets from her baker on staff. The staff is largely high school and university students.
The flexibility of being her own boss provides Emma with opportunities to experiment with the menu. She enjoys trying out different recipes and seeing how customers respond. She is testing the waters with seasonal menu items such as summer drinks (fresh squeezed lemonade and strawberry lemonade), and just in time for the hot weather, Sweet Somethings will be offering locally sourced ice cream in cones.
In addition to baked goods, Sweet Somethings offers a breakfast and lunch menu. Breakfast is served all day and Emma says the avocado toast with lemon ricotta or tomato on top is a customer favourite.
Like every good diner, a blue plate special is featured daily. Other selections include pot pies (chicken, beef, veggie, tourtière), beet and apple salad, a variety of sandwiches and a soup of the day.
A section of the shop is devoted to merchandise that includes Westholme teas to brew at home, along with chocolate from Vancouver based Lisa Lou’s Chocolate Bar.
She also sells a luxurious perfume, bath soap and hand lotion line by Carthusia from Capri, Italy. Emma’s mother discovered and fell in love with the products and thought they would be a lovely addition to the shop.
With a big smile Emma says, “This is such a social business and I really love what I do.”
Hearing customers say, “This is what the neighbourhood has been missing” is a huge reward for this hard working business owner.
In the short time that Sweet Somethings has been open Emma has noticed patterns. There is an after school rush when kids and parents come in, and kids will pull up on their bikes and stop in to order a grilled cheese sandwich.
There are some 12 and 13-year-old regulars who she knows by name. Emma expects that her shop will be a popular destination this summer when ice cream is available.
Welcome to the neighbourhood, Sweet Somethings, and thank you for carrying on the tradition of offering the community a bakery in central Dunbar.
4321 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC V6S 1R1