WADENA — Jan. 26 was a nasty day for driving in east-central Saskatchewan.
Winds of 50 to 70 km-h whipped snow across Highway 16 between Yorkton and Foam Lake, polishing the road and giving the highway a sheen that sent a signal to drivers — slow down or wind up in the ditch.
The high winds, blowing snow and slick roads probably reduced the number of customers at retail stores and shops in Wadena, a town of 1,300 about 125 km northwest of Yorkton.
But not at the Wadena Bakery.
From 10 to 11:30 a.m. on a Wednesday, the bell on the front door rang with an electronic beep, beep, beep every two or three minutes. Most customers came through the door, paused to adjust their facemask and then walked to the front counter.
Nearly every person ordered a dozen doughnuts.
Some got a variety pack. Others selected six long johns and six apple fritters. But many bought a dozen with only one type of doughnut — the Wadena Bakery Boston Cream.
“Every knows them. The cream inside, the melty in your mouth doughnut. It’s the best thing I’ve ever had,” said Jil Reid, while holding a dozen doughnuts and standing next to a rack of bread inside the bakery.
Reid, who works for Nu-Fab Building Products in Saskatoon, was driving to Porcupine Plain from Saskatoon and made a special detour to buy a pack of Boston creams.
“My customers love these doughnuts and I love my customers…. I got my customers doughnuts and two for myself. Only Boston cream. The doughnut.”
Reid’s story is not unusual.
The Wadena Bakery draws customers from across the province, who drive hundreds of kilometres to buy Boston creams, even in bad weather.
“Some of them do make a special trip. We had a family last Friday in the middle of that snowstorm, phoned us in the morning and said they were coming out to buy two or three dozen…. And they drove out in a snowstorm from Yorkton,” said Steve Suik, who operates Wadena Bakery with his wife, Margaret.
The Suiks sell more doughnuts in the summer, when families from Saskatoon, Regina and elsewhere are driving to a cottage or a lake. They stop in Wadena for doughnuts, usually on a Friday or Saturday.
On a typical Friday during the summer, Steve and Margaret may sell 100 dozen of their Boston creams. That’s 1,200 Boston cream doughnuts, often before lunch.
“We encourage them to call ahead…. (Sometimes) we can run out by one or two (p.m.),” Margaret explained.
Doughnut sales have exploded in the last few years at the Wadena Bakery. That’s possibly because of COVID, but also thanks to word of mouth.
“We get people coming in and saying: so and so told me, if you’re ever in Wadena you have to stop here,” Margaret said “We hear that all the time.”
Folks like Jil Reid are basically walking advertisements for the Wadena Bakery.
“The local bakeries are the best…. I get local doughnuts all over, Wadena Bakery is the best of the best,” she said. “And the staff here are amazing, too.”
Steve began his life in Delisle, Sask., where his father rented and operated a bakery in the town near Saskatoon. His parents were from the Netherlands and in 1954, a couple of weeks after their wedding, they emigrated to Canada and arrived in Saskatchewan.
Trained as a baker in Holland, Steve’s dad took a job at McGavin’s bakery in Regina. He then rented the bakery in Delisle until 1959.
When Steve was five years old, the Suik family moved to Wadena.
He still remembers driving to Wadena with an employee of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.
“It was the wheat pool that helped Dad get started here,” Steve said, while sitting at a corner table at the bakery. He wore a white T-shirt and white pants and looked the part of a baker.
The previous owner of the bakery had gone bankrupt and owed the wheat pool a debt.
“They helped move us here, for exchange in Dad paying of (the) bill.” Steve said. “That’s what I remember, being driven here.”
Steve worked at the family bakery as a teen, sometimes starting at 4:30 a.m. before school. But he didn’t have ambitions to become a baker.
“I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, to be honest.”
Margaret grew up in Kuroki, a town about 25 km east of Wadena. They knew each other as teenagers but didn’t get together until after high school.
The Suiks moved to Saskatoon for about three years in their late teens and early 20s. Steve studied food service management at a technical college and Margaret worked as a waitress.
They were planning to remain in Saskatoon, but in 1977 Steve’s dad asked them to join the family business.
They decided to give the bakery a try. If they didn’t like it, they could always return to Saskatoon.
That never happened. They built a life in Wadena and had five children.
Their kids are now adults. Two live in British Columbia and the other three are in Saskatoon.
In 1987, Steve’s dad wanted to retire, so the next generation of Suiks took over the business. In total, Steve and Margaret have now been running Wadena Bakery for 35 years and have worked there for 45.
The Suiks never took formal training to become bakers. They learned by working with Steve’s dad and through repetition.
In the 1980s and 1990s, they sold a great deal of bread to local customers. But that changed.
“Our bread is still a real good seller (but) we don’t sell what we used to… I think there’s smaller families, fewer people on the farms,” Steve said.
“There was a time that we would make 3,000 loaves of bread a week. Now, we probably do, if it’s a busy week, under 2,000.”
Doughnuts have become a bigger part of the business, thanks largely to the popularity of the Boston creams.
When they first introduced the Boston cream, a number of years ago, the doughnuts weren’t an instant hit. Over the years, the Boston cream became more and more popular and it’s now the signature item at the Wadena Bakery.
Steve acknowledged that the filling might be what makes their Boston cream distinct from the average doughnut.
At Tim Horton’s, the Boston cream is filled with custard.
The Suiks use a home-made pastry cream, devised from a secret recipe, and they don’t scrimp on the filling.
“Sometimes you buy a filled doughnut and it’s got just a bit of filling,” said Margaret, who remembered having a cream puff with only a speck of cream.
She doesn’t want Wadena Bakery customers to be disappointed, so she errs on the side of extra filling.
Making hundreds of doughnuts before dawn, especially in the summer, means the Suiks begin their workday when some people are turning off the TV.
When demand is high, they start making doughnuts at 2 a.m.
In the winter they can sleep in till 3 or 3:30 a.m.
Steve first makes the dough. Then he cuts out the doughnuts, which must rise and then be fried.
“It probably takes two or three hours of making them. Then they proof for an hour and a half,” he said. “Then it’s just continual frying…. The frying process is probably two or three hours.”
Margaret and other staff at Wadena Bakery fill the doughnuts with pastry cream and dip the tops in chocolate.
That’s not all they do in the wee hours. They also make apple fritters, glazed doughnuts, coconut long-johns among other treats.
Customers like Maureen Elliott appreciate the effort.
“All their baked goods are delicious…. I like all their doughnuts,” said Elliott, who lives in Wadena.
If Maureen and her husband are travelling to Regina or other parts of Saskatchewan to see relatives, they usually take a box of doughnuts for the extended family.
“My sister’s grandchildren love the Boston creams.”
The daily demand for Boston creams is enough to keep the Suiks busy, but they also get requests for special events.
A number of people have asked them to prepare doughnuts for a wedding.
“They’ll order them and put them in (a tower),” Margaret said, noting they provided Boston creams to a wedding this winter in the Rocky Mountains, at a resort near Lake Louise. “They wanted a big (doughnut) to cut, instead of a cake.”
The Wadena Bakery is a success, but the Suiks have been at it for decades and are thinking more and more about the next stage of life.
If someone came along who wanted to take over the business, Steve and Margaret are open to the idea of training them and helping the new owner get started.
In the meantime, they find it satisfying that their hard work has brought joy to the people of Wadena and Saskatchewan.