Bernadette and Michael Pitcher are passionate people — passionate about their work, the community and about the disenfranchised.
The couple owns Grains Bakery & Bistro in Courtenay — formerly a Buns Master franchise — which offers an old-time country atmosphere with open beams, antique tables, rustic shelving and bright display cases. It includes an outdoor patio area.
The business is a ’24/6’ operation — it’s closed Sundays — which makes for a challenging, but not tough, operation.
“I don’t say it’s tough because tough suggests we’re not happy,” Michael said. “It’s challenging in a sense that you build it, they come. Sometimes you get more than you’re ready for.”
Inside can seat 45 patrons and the patio 50, though as as many as 60 can squeeze inside on a rainy day.
“What it brought to us was two things: a very solid business, plus an incredible way to become part of the community. We’re in deep — and loving it,” said Michael, who credits Bernadette’s essence as the key behind the hospitality and friendliness of Grains.
“Don’t be rushed. Experience that laid-backness that you find in a general store.”
Along with customers who walk through the door, they service about three-quarters of the restaurants, hotels and gas stations from Royston to the far side of Campbell River.
“We have over 120 commercial customers here,” Michael said.
When the couple purchased the franchise in 2000, Bernadette was the lead because Michael was busy with a dairy farm. In 2011, he became a bigger part of the operation while she became director of the Gaglardi Academy in Comox. Bernadette continues as the accounting manager at Grains.
The Pitchers have been married 28 years. Before moving to the Valley, they had both worked for Imperial Oil. In his first 15 years as a Valley resident, Michael was a ski instructor with Vancouver Island Adaptive Snowsports. He was also a founder of the Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society.
The business maintains strong relationships with groups such as the Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity.
“My wife and I have a faith background that connects with the principles of the Salvation Army,” said Michael, a board member of the Dawn to Dawn: Action on Homelessness Society.
Grains caters to various eating habits, such as gluten-free, which accounts for about 15 per cent of its retail sales.
The busiest period is summer, with the most intense time occurring on August long weekend.
“Keeps us busy with two trucks on the road,” Michael said.
The Pitchers employ 16 people. Their staffers have initiated a no tipping policy, but if customers insist on tipping, the money ends up being donated to various causes. Last year, Grains staff donated about $3,500.
Grains is located at 445-10th St. in Courtenay. It is open Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Call (250) 338-0955