Edmonton bakery provides job opportunities for young people: ‘It’s a new chance’

A local bakery, run out of a church in Old Strathcona, is satisfying your sweet tooth while teaching life skills to youth.

TYP TOP BAKERY is tucked inside Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Old Strathcona. Inside, three to four employees—under the guidance of a professionally trained baker—work to complete various orders around Edmonton.

Clark Hardy is the founder and director of Trinity Youth Project and TYP TOP BAKERY.  He said the bakery was created to support youth facing employment and socioeconomic barriers.

“I was working as an outreach youth worker and I found that other youth employment programs [were not working for everyone],” Hardy explained. “They couldn’t be there 9-5 p.m. Monday to Friday.”

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At TYP TOP, youth aged 15-24 can either seek employment or volunteer at the shop. Since the program began in February 2019, 60 youth have been benefitted from employment opportunities.

“Some of these kids don’t have typical opportunities that other youth may have through school or other connections,” Hardy said.

“Here they can get employment experience, learn how to work in a team and a fast-paced kitchen in an environment that’s understanding of their situation.”

The bakery fulfils impressive orders. Last year, a church in Onoway ordered 200 pounds of shortbread and the Edmonton Christmas Market bought 70 dozen pretzels.

The youths’ baking can also be found in some of Edmonton’s most popular spots like BAIJU and The Grizzlar.

Shortbread made by TYP TOP BAKERY
Shortbread made by TYP TOP BAKERY. Courtesy: Clark Hardy

“This is a professional bakery,” Hardy said.

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Dimitra Georgiadis, 23, has been at the bakery for nearly two years and is currently working on completing her Red Seal to become a professional baker.

“We’ve learned lots. Difficult breads that I didn’t even know existed,” Georgiadis said.

“There have been other programs I’ve been a part of and they don’t usually last this long.

“I thought it would just be temporary. I’m glad that it’s not.”

Georgiadis said she had always dreamed of opening up a bakery, but wasn’t sure how that was going to happen.

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“I wasn’t in a good position. I didn’t have a lot of money to go to school. I was really happy when [Clark] said he was opening up a bakery.”

She said the support the space provides goes beyond an employer/employee relationship.

“I had an issue with my rent and I couldn’t pay it. They helped me pay my rent,” she said. “It’s good to know somebody is there to help me when I need it.”

Treats made by TYP TOP BAKERY
Treats made by TYP TOP BAKERY. Courtesy: Clark Hardy

At the helm of the baking is chef Kelsey Johnson, formerly with Duchess Bake Shop and Cafe Linnea.

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“Working with the kids and seeing how the kids’ mood changes when they are in the kitchen after they’ve had a bad day. We work through things, we listen to music and have fun,” Johnson said.

“They feel good. I feel good. We have a good baking day together and they’ve made some cash.”

Johnson said the shop’s blossoming success is secondary to what’s happening inside the kitchen.

“On its face, we are baking buns. But at the heart of it… it’s so much more. It’s a safe space. Somewhere that they can leave the outside world behind. It’s a new chance,” Johnson said.

“The baking is secondary. It’s about creating community. Having the kids feel like they are working towards positive things.”

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The bake shop’s goal is to become self-sufficient solely through sales, but it currently receives funding from the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, the Anglican Diocese (which employs Hardy) and other donors.

“The more product we sell, the more kids we can employ. That’s a huge thing,” Johnson said.

You can place an order with TYP TOP BAKERY here.

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If you know a youth who would like to work at TYP TOP BAKERY, they can apply here.

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