Ichiban Bakery comes to the Glebe

Abbey, Michael Feb 2017 Ichiban Bakery. IB 3
Ichiban Bakery opened its second location in Fifth Avenue Court.
Ichiban Bakery
June Tan, co-owner of the Ichiban Bakery, is enthusiastic about the bakery’s move into the Glebe. Photos: Michael Abbey

by Michael Abbey

Ichiban Bakery just opened a second location in Fifth Avenue Court. The Bank Street storefront is attractive and June discusses the business with much enthusiasm and pride. The inside of the bakery is rustic with a brick wall facing an uncluttered but tempting service area.  June Tan has a medical background having spent many years at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute doing electron microscopy science. The more I spoke with her and heard her story and where she wants to go with the bakery, Ichiban seemed like a perfect fit. June owns the shop with her husband and proudly mentioned that, “Ive always had a passion for being an entrepreneur and having my own business.”

Her husband had worked in the Glebe for 10 years and that experience drew her to the neighbourhood. The people are “friendly and very nice,” a characteristic of the area we all experience. “Even the businesses, they are so nice to small businesses.”

Ichiban makes everything fresh in the morning by hand. As a baker, she sees factory-bought goods all over the industry and takes pride in their homemade approach. The woman working the counter when I arrived made eye contact with me to acknowledge my presence and June and I discussed this as a relationship building practice one does not encounter all the time.

Ichiban prides itself on a peanut-free environment and signage to that effect is expected in the near future. They do not have any gluten-free offerings and doubt they will venture into that space in the future. The décor is simple and in the context of what Ichiban does, it is perfect – wood, wood, and more wood. The wares displayed on the counter and in the glass-covered pastry shelf speak wonders about the bakery’s core offerings. I have always wondered what bakeries do with the plethora of goods on display that they could not possibly sell in a day before they go stale. At Ichiban, wonder no more. All their products are fresh and they do not sell anything more than a day old. The displays are appropriately sparse yet tempting. “People come here because I sell fresh bread.” June made this commitment to her clientele from the beginning and she sticks to her mantra. “We try to control the inventory very carefully.”

A number of customers from the 1500 Bank location are thrilled she has opened in the Glebe and are frequenting the new location. She also has plans to cater to the sports venues at Lansdowne by staying open late once it is deemed worthwhile. Whole Foods at Lansdowne carries some of Ichiban’s goods, June having contacted them a few years ago well before she opened the second Glebe location.

She has done some hands-on research on the competition’s inventory and adjusts her recipes as necessary. Ichiban is the only bakery in Ottawa using a pizza oven to bake her bread. The natural gas-fired pizza oven does delicious things to the outside surfaces of the bread. The searing and immediate heat makes the outside more robust and crunchy.

Ichiban has lowered the sugar content of their wares without compromising the quality, taste and attraction of sweet offerings. Lemon pie and lemon squares commonly have massive amounts of sugar. Biting into one of the offerings on the “try-me” plate by the cash register, it was refreshing to taste puffy dough alongside cranberries without the overwhelming taste of sugar. Sugar is treated as an ingredient at Ichiban, not an overwhelming component. June notes, “I do not do organic, but we ensure the bread we make would remind you of what your family has made for years.” She believes the only and best way to bake is from scratch – no premixed flour, no prepared ingredients, nothing but virgin material, unaltered. Her mother was a dietician in China, so quality and smart eating have been June’s habit from the start.

Ichiban does not take credit cards so please bring along your debit card or good old-fashioned cash. Rest assured, the pricing of her goods is partially influenced by this decision. Number 1 in Japanese is ichi. Add ban at the end, translate into English, and you get first. Ichiban Bakery is now one of my first stops on my frequent tours of the Glebe.

“Our bakery has been in operation for 18 years and we will continue to try our best to bring the highest quality and healthy breads and pastries to our customers.”

Michael Abbey is a retired professional from the high tech sector in Ottawa. He attended school in Old Ottawa South and Centretown and has written about software and other things for over 20 years. He can be reached at abbey.fenderpbs@gmail.com or at PreferMajors on Twitter, or found directing a bridge game near you.

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