Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food aims to use CBRN Grant to bring together St. John’s community

“When Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food in downtown St. John’s closed its doors on March 18, it was like thousands of similar businesses across the country,” shared Mark McGann. “However, for this bustling community beacon on St. John’s main street, it was one of the first signs that something serious was happening.”

As part of its Canadian Business Resilience Network campaign, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, through the generosity of Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), provided 62 small Canadian businesses with $10,000 grants to help their recovery efforts during these unprecedented times. What follows is the story of Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, one of the businesses that received a grant. 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food was a popular bakery café, general store and event space housed in a heritage building in downtown St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food is considered by many to be the heartbeat of downtown St. John’s; it has been a community hub for almost 10 years employing 45 full and part-time staff, increasing to 65 during the summer months.

“Not only has the closure of Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food due to COVID-19 affected our staff community of 45, but it has affected the-community-at-large, as well, due to its role as a cultural meeting place, styled upon the warm, Newfoundland kitchen party concept of mismatched tables and chairs, music and song,” said McGann.

In the past, Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food has used their event space to donate or partner with groups such as Breast Cancer Research, Sci-Fi on the Rock, Lindy Hop on the Rock, The Storytelling Festival, The Children’s Wish Foundation’s Exile Island, Neighbourhood Dance Works as well as various high schools for fundraising coffee houses.

“We’ve used Rocket’s main retail space and our ground floor Orbit Room dining room as well for community-oriented events and donations and, in the last year, Neighbourhood Dance Works, all ages traditional music sessions with the St. John’s Folk Festival and Opera on the Avalon have all been welcomed to those spaces,” explained McGann.

Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food intends to use the grant money to change their mode of service from a cafeteria-style shop to one that operates from a tablet-based ordering system.

“Folks were able to stroll about our main food hall and choose various items from different departments,” described McGann. “Due to the pandemic, we‘ve had to pivot to a production on-demand ordering system as the previous model is no longer possible to maintain.”

Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food has been making significant changes to their layout to accommodate physical distancing guidelines along with changes to their new web ordering programs to address the demand for delivery and contactless pickup orders.

“The grant would also enable us to afford to hire the technical expertise we need as well as upgrade our computer in order to facilitate the more complex programming required,” said McGann. “These programming changes would enable us to control frozen food inventory that we now need to produce in order to fulfill curbside pickup in all three locations.”

With the Small Business Relief Fund, Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food would also be able to convert their Rocket Room event space into a room with seating for dining which would also create opportunities for local musicians to play safely.

“This means returning, for many Newfoundlanders, to a kitchen-party style atmosphere at Rocket that they’d become accustomed to,” expressed McGann.

To learn more about the CBRN Small Business Relief Fund and see the full list of award recipients, visit the Small Business Relief Fund page.