The baked goods look so tantalizing it is hard to know where to begin when you peek inside Diplomat Bakery’s glass display case laden with cakes and treats.
Do you choose a cinnamon bun, croissant, square or a slice of cake? Maybe you have a friend along to share tastes with, or perhaps you should select a cake to take home?
Whatever you decide, you know it’s going to be a guaranteed winner as no corners are cut or expense is spared on ingredients; real cream, butter and Belgian chocolate are all used to create these European style temptations.
Diplomat Bakery is very much a family affair. Gerald Stenson, his wife Elizabeth and their son Mark are all actively involved in running the business. Their daughter Adele is a nurse and is a keen supporter of the family enterprise. She has played a key role in customer service and now helps contribute to product research and development.
Gerald is the pastry chef and Elizabeth is the bookkeeper. She holds a degree in food service administration and has financial accounting experience. Gerald adds fondly, “She’s a very integral behind-the-scenes part of the business.”
Mark has been helping out at the bakery since he was so small that he needed a box to stand on at the cash register. Now, with a diploma in accounting and a BBA degree in marketing under his belt, he assists with operations and marketing and is playing an active role in taking the business to the next level. He is very interested in product development and is proud of the success of introducing a seven-inch variation of their traditional nine-inch cake. He says, “Customers have responded well to this addition.”
The well-loved bakery recently reopened at their beautiful new location at London Station.
Situated across the street from their former London Road site, the new space is much more visible as the storefront is set closer to the street. In a smart business move, the Stensons purchased the space. It is slightly smaller than their previous location and conjures up memories of their original Steveston village shop on Moncton Street, which was in operation from 1994 to 2007.
Their goal was to create a storefront as classy as the cakes for which they are known. They credit designer Lorraine Ilich for her assistance. Along the front window they have incorporated a twenty-foot counter made of stone with seating for customers to enjoy their coffee and treats and do a little people watching. A rolling garage door on the east side of the bakery will open during the summer months and there is plenty of space for outdoor patio seating.
“We were able to design the space from scratch and dress it up.” Mark Stenson
Aware that Diplomat Bakery is the only place to purchase coffee in the London Station area, they have stepped up their coffee service with a new espresso machine and have introduced locally roasted coffee by Oughtred Roasting Works. Their staff has been trained to make coffee to satisfy connoisseurs. Speciality drinks such as London Fog and chai lattes share the menu with favourite coffee standards.
Customers stop in to shop for their baked goods, and others pass by for a coffee and a treat en route to or from a walk or bike ride along the south dyke.
Gerald has been creating sweet masterpieces for Diplomat Bakery since it first opened in 1994.
Originally from Ireland, he has a lilt of an Irish accent that has morphed from time spent working as a pastry chef for Sheraton and Hilton hotels in Africa, Australia, Malaysia and the Middle East. He also worked in Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Twenty-five years ago he moved to Canada with his wife Elizabeth and their two small children.
When Gerald arrived in Vancouver he discovered he was overqualified and had a hard time finding work. He worked in airline catering and then tried his hand at going into business wholesaling baked goods. He began by giving out samples of his delicious pastries and cakes to restaurants and he was on his way – they were hooked.
At one point, before Costco had their own in house bakery, Diplomat Bakery supplied three Costco locations as well as G.M. Place arena (they supplied the Canucks and Grizzlies teams and some special events). Gerald recalls creating a special rose dessert for Bette Midler in honour of her popular song.
After wholesaling got to be a bit much he decided to branch into retail. The business name came from a hotel Gerald and Elizabeth visited while they were working in Bahrain. Gerald explains, “We always felt Diplomat would be a nice name for a company. Also, we really enjoyed our time there and the staff were very kind.”
“I wake up in the morning and love going to work.” Gerald Stenson
Diplomat Bakery has earned a reputation for its excellent cakes. Gerald lists the Diplomat, Red Velvet, Tiramisu and Triple Chocolate cakes as perennial favourites. Mark points out, “The tastes are true to their origin.” He remembers a customer saying, “This is what a Black Forest cake should taste like.”
They have regular customers who come for their chocolate fix. Some travel in from North Vancouver and Tsawwassen to visit their favourite bakery. Gerald recalls customers ordering cakes to take to Vancouver Island, across the border and even as far away as Hong Kong. He says, “We are very flattered people want to do that.”
Christmas is always a special time at Diplomat Bakery as seasonal goodies make their debut. Inside the display case you will find their popular three-inch mince pies, four varieties of tarts (almond, butter, coconut and pecan), stollen, shortbread (boxed makes a nice gift), gingerbread men (for kids of every size) and Yule logs.
This holiday season consider taking some of the pressure off and leave some of the baking to the experts at Diplomat Bakery.
6168 London Road
Richmond, BC V7E 3S3