A hot coffee on a breezy summer morning. A refreshing kombucha on lunch break. A fresh loaf of bread on the dinner table. These seemingly insignificant items are often a treat that many cannot afford. C’est Tout Bakery in Smiths Falls has a plan to make these simple pleasures more accessible to everyone.
Customers are invited to purchase items during their visit to the bakery that will later be given to a customer who needs it. Many café’s in Ottawa have this program in place for coffee and refer to it as ‘suspended coffee’. Whether it’s a loaf of bread, a coffee, a tea, a Nanaimo bar or anything else at C’est Tout Bakery, the suspended treat is written on a sticky note and then posted on the board. Customers are welcome to grab a sticky note off the board, claim it and then pay it forward when they have the opportunity.
“This is a method for people to have access to something they might not get otherwise,” said Amy Rensby, the owner of C’est Tout Bakery. She said she thinks there are a lot of people in need who will appreciate the suspended treat initiative. “It doesn’t sacrifice their dignity because they pick what they want from the board and put something back up there later.”
The bakery smells of fresh bread and faintly of coffee. Light grey walls and soft pop music invite customers to relax at one of the five clothed tables or browse the assortment of local coffees, teas and other items on the large black shelves but it’s more than just a bakery.
Regardless of status, Rensby said people should have access to good food and safe environments without having to beg. “A customer, who clearly doesn’t take care of himself well, once purchased a tea and then asked if he was allowed to sit in the café [area] to drink it,” she said. “I told him he absolutely is always welcome to stay. He has the same right to sit here as you and I.”
As a small business owner Rensby said she feels it is her social responsibility to actively participate in improving the sense of community with her customers and the town at large. “It’s important to me that we support fundraisers and really get to know everyone around us.”
Rensby and her husband moved to Smiths Falls from Ottawa about 10 years ago. She was a policy advisor in her previous career with the federal government. Rensby, who has always loved to cook and bake, started a catering company in Smiths Falls about four years ago and opened C’est Tout Bakery in March 2016 due to popular demand. “I think it’s really important to embrace what shows up in your life,” she said.
There’s no need to worry about customers taking advantage of the pay-it-forward based suspended treat system because “it’s all about cultivating relationships of trust, with our customers and with the community,” Rensby said, adding that she assumes that someone who claims something from board must have needed it.
“I think people are generally good and kindhearted and I think people want a method to give,” said Rensby. “Kindness and compassion are missing from the world sometimes – this is a good way to add some.”
This article was first published in the June edition of Hometown News. Read more of the June issue in our digital version.