Benjamin Manea, owner of Walla Artisan Bakery & Cafe, is not ready to hang up his apron just yet.
Despite his diagnosis of ALS in March of this year, Manea and his wife, Sharon Wiener, are choosing to keep their Penticton-based business open and search for a potential protégé to join them.
“Just in the last week or so we decided we weren’t closing. Ben was diagnosed in March so there was the shock of that, and then us trying to figure out what to do under these circumstances,” said Wiener.
Wiener stated that they “entertained all sorts of ideas” about what to do with business, but it soon became clear to the pair what needed to be done.
“We weren’t finding someone saying ‘This bread is amazing, I really want to learn about baking and about Ben’s methods’, it wasn’t that sort of thing. And we just realized that we don’t want the business to disappear, we just need help,” said Wiener.
Wiener and Manea both agree the ideal candidate should have an appreciation for good bread, and a desire to learn from and work with Manea. Their hopes are that eventually, this candidate will either buy into the business or purchase it in its entirety, ensuring the continuation of Ben’s work.
“The biggest thing is that we don’t want the community to lose the bakery,” said Wiener. “We have people clambering for our bread way beyond the City of Penticton.”
ALS is a motor neuron disease that has no cure and gradually becomes fatal. At the time of his diagnosis, Wiener was told he had three years to live.
“We don’t know exactly how much, what is a long time? We don’t know if it’s years, we don’t know. But he certainly has time,” said Wiener.
Manea has began to lose his fine motor skills, but Wiener explains that he is fully able to train staff and supervise operations in the kitchen. This is imperative since he plans on sharing his baking recipes and methods with the successful candidate, in order to ensure customers don’t lose the product when Manea steps down.
“Ben has developed a seven-day fermentation process that is very specific and took many years. It really what his intellectual property is in this business. The process allows the gluten in the bread to break down sufficiently enough that people who are gluten-intolerant, wheat-intolerant, or celiac can all eat his breads,” said Wiener. “The breads alone are phenomenal, but on top of that, being able to eat it when you can’t eat bread (at all) is a gamechanger in the bread industry.”
Manea and Wiener believe the next step for the business involves increasing production and distribution, due to how in-demand their breads are throughout the province.
“We want to make it so that anyone who wants one, can get one. That’s the plan,” said Wiener.
Interested applicants should note that Manea and Wiener are looking for someone who is the right fit to be a part of their team.
“It’s simple and it’s complicated,” said Manea.
“In a way, Ben is looking for a kind of copy of himself. He couldn’t find good bread and had a great love of bread, that’s what motivated him to (start) this kind of business,” said Wiener. “In a way, it could be somebody financially stable who has always had a love for bread and baking, and has always wanted to learn about these old school, traditional methods of doing things.”
For more information about Walla Artisan Bakery & Cafe, visit their Facebook page. Those that feel they may be who Wiener and Manea are looking for can send their application to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To report a typo, email: email@example.com.
Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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