WINDSOR, ONT. -- As Windsor-Essex sees more restrictive public health measures return, local businesses continue to adapt and survive – including a business staple in Comber turning to a pantry staple to keep cooking.

On Monday, the region will move into Ontario’s 'Red-Control' category of COVID-19-focused measures which will see the Iron Kettle Bed and Breakfast in Comber continue to keep its rooms empty and instead rely on bread to keep the business alive.

"People show up every week for their bread orders so it’s tremendous," said Benjamin Leblanc-Beaudoin, the owner of the Iron Kettle. "That’s the thing that saved my business."

Benjamin Leblanc-Beaudoin
Benjamin Leblanc-Beaudoin, owner of Iron Kettle Bed and Breakfast, has launched a food program that has helped to keep the business alive through the pandemic. Sunday, November 29, 2020. (Ricardo Veneza / CTV Windsor).

A new food program was launched at the bed and breakfast after fluctuating public health restrictions created too much uncertainty to continue with limited bookings and smaller events.

Leblanc-Beaudoin turned to bread making as the cornerstone of the Iron Kettle’s takeout food program which now accounts for all the business’ revenue.

"The loss that we’ve had from cancelling events, weddings, room accommodations is tremendous," said Leblanc-Beaudoin. "It’s 99 per cent of our projected income but, we’ve been able to make up a lot of that just by hard work and kneading the dough, literally!"

Leblanc-Beaudoin says the community has taken to the new program and sees it becoming a core component of what the Iron Kettle offers even when bookings are offered again.

"The support that we had from the community was so big that we had to implement new programs to be able to accept orders for them and make an investment into that – got new ovens, really built a system, hired more people just to bake bread," said Leblanc-Beaudoin.

As restrictions continue to fluctuate and overnight bookings remain off the table for the foreseeable future, Leblanc-Beaudoin says the challenges of the pandemic have been difficult to endure but, have made his business more resilient.

"This is the future for us," said Leblanc-Beaudoin. "So much so that the investments that we will now be making into our business will not have to do with anything else but to get our kitchen out of this building so we can blow this thing up."


Feast On

Leblanc-Beaudoin says his team has been able to navigate the ever-changing restrictions to continue building its local supply network.

For a fifth straight year, the bed and breakfast maintained its Feast On certification from the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, which recognizes those participants sourcing at least 25 per cent of its stock from Ontario food and drink suppliers.

"It’s not just who makes the food that has been facing challenges or will be facing challenges, especially with this new closure, it’s the whole supply chain, the whole system," said Leblanc-Beaudoin.

The Grove Brew House in Kingsville, this year, has become the second business in Windsor-Essex to earn the certification.