6 Mile Bakery & Deli Ltd.
Sisters Tracey Hebden and Deb King grew up in the bakery business. When their family moved to British Columbia from England in the 1960s, the women’s father took a job working for a deli called Brandywine. He worked as a lead baker for more than a decade. When his wife passed away in 1981, he decided to buy out the production part of the deli, opening the doors of 6 Mile Bakery & Deli Ltd. (6 Mile). The purchase kept the family busy as his daughters came to work for the family business.
The business began to grow slowly, but surely. While the early years proved challenging, the company soon picked up several large contracts with hotels and local institutions. In 1985, the business outgrew a rented space. Shortly after, the family purchased the defunct Vitaway. Through acquisitions and a growing reputation for quality breads and baked goods, 6 Mile has grown into a top competitor in the Victoria food and commodities market.
Tracey and Deb work with a staff of approximately 35, creating more than 200 different line items for a diverse customer base. The business is running 24 hours with three shifts and 6 Mile delivers seven days a week. The team delivers items within roughly an hour radius from the bakery to hospitals, military installations, universities, grocery stores and farmers markets.
Baked to perfection
6 Mile produces baked goods under the company name, as well as for private label customers. The product line includes bread, rolls, buns, doughnuts and more. “We source as much as we can locally and make everything from scratch,” says Tracey. “Of course, our main ingredient is flour and the prices are set by the Canadian Wheat Board. We cannot afford flour from small mills, so we go with instead Saskatchewan mills. We work with a lot of west coast companies such as Snowcap and Rogers. Our produce and meat is often local, which we use for meat pies. Our customers are very supportive of the local economy so we try to serve that.”
While white flour makes up most of the ingredients of 6 Mile’s products, the business has followed consumer trends to provide alternatives. “Between the Atkins Diet fad and the gluten-free movement, we have gotten into baking gluten-free products,” Tracey elaborates. “We’ve done our research. In order to be truly gluten-free, you have to prepare products in an entirely flour free area and we have done that. We still sell white flour items over any other, but our gluten-free line has grown. We did a lot of cakes around Christmas last year and lately we have sold a lot of hot cross buns, lava brownies and bagels, all gluten-free.”
Structured for success
Tracey and Deb seem to have achieved a perfect balance. “Being on the island and being local, it is important for us to be hands-on in the business,” Tracey explains. “You need both a business and skill side. Deb sister is the baking side of things; she is on the floor every day. I am on more of the administrative side and I take care of packaging. Our dad is less involved now and we bought him out a few years ago. We both have kids and we are hoping for a third generation for the business.”
Having the right balance has helped 6 Mile gracefully adjust to a changing industry. Regulations and taxes seem constantly in flux, but the company has managed to stay on top of it all while maintaining growth. Changing regulations for food service in schools have impacted the business, as well as the move away from trans fats. Having a small company with involved ownership has made it easier for 6 Mile to evolve with the market.
The business is well adjusted and the sisters are looking ahead to continued steady growth. “We only need so much money,” Tracey notes. “As long as it runs and operates smoothly, we are happy. Down the line we hope we can take a break every once in a while when the kids can step in a bit more. The bills are paid and our employees are paid with benefits for our long-term staff and that’s all we want. We have an awesome group of people here.”
6 Mile is well run, a factor that keeps customers returning time after time. Tracey and Deb keep the business service-oriented, meaning quick turnover of quality products. As a family business, the team understands the value of relationships. The sisters remain very involved in the business, working closely with customers to meet their needs as the market changes. With integrity and the right kind of flexibility, 6 Mile Bakery & Deli Ltd. has made a lasting impact on Vancouver Island that is sure to endure into the next generation.