I feel a connection to Women Like Laura MacLeod; Owner, baker and conceptual force behind The Old Apothecary Bakery. Women like Laura have reinvented themselves many times career wise following various creative veins and never wavering in strong entrepreneurial spirit. In Laura’s case her interior design background belts out the harmony in the culinary symphony that is The Old Apothecary.
I was at first drawn in by the siren Song of the salted Caramel Brownies, and the prospect of life changing croissants and chocolate Eclairs. Going to a real bakery is one of the most indulgent things I can think of to do in an afternoon without busting my budget for luxury. For a very modest price you buy a little piece of happiness. You pick from a glass case of handmade art and watch with baited breath as your selection is packaged. The packaging is as much a part of the experience as the selection and consumption. My eclair was packaged in a sliding brown paper matchbox and stamped with the Apothecary Logo in black ink. I suspect Laura’s daughter Katie a graphic design graduate of NASCAD is behind the logo and branding. Today I use that box to hold pens for guests on my tours to fill out surveys. I’ve learned over time that food, in particular pastry, is best enjoyed fresh. I can’t, no matter how I may want to, draw out the experience by saving my eclaire for the “right moment”. This is art you can’t hold on to, it must be enjoyed in the now. This is a good lesson for me, one I’ve tried to apply to the rest of my life.
The day I discovered the Old Apothecary as my weekly book club hangout and morning coffee refuge, Laura was baking Bread. Katie, had just served me a pour over coffee, rich, fortifying, and never acidic or bitter. I sat on an industrial looking stool that on closer inspection proved to be constructed out of black iron pipe fittings. Nice. I struck up a conversation with Laura opening with how happy I was to be in out the rain, warm, and wrapped in the smell of baking. True to it’s namesake, the Building used to be an Apothecary, and is of the same lineage of most of the heritage district adjacent part of Barrington Street. It’s one of those places that sets the imagination alight. The kind of space in which you daydream about a life of creative leisure.
“Have you been upstairs?’ Laura breaks through my reverie. I shake my head revealing that I haven’t. Dusting her hands and setting the timer, she steps from behind the partition. “come on!” Sliding off my stool as if hypnotized, I follow her gesturing hand as she leads me toward a flight of stairs as creaky as they are steep.
I have dreams occasionally while I’m sleeping where I suddenly ascend a set of stairs and discover a whole new living space. These dreams stay with me as something I treasure for days. There is always an accompanying feeling of expansion and euphoric creative possibility that follows me into my waking life. I can only describe the experience of going up the Apothecary stairs for the first time as a real life version of one of these dreams. It isn’t often as adults we get to step through the looking glass, but that day I did. The room happened to be empty and soft diffused light filtered through the large windows and set the scene in dramatic relief. Sanded wooden floors, and exposed brick walls. The space sizzled with potential making the creative side of me giddy. Slowly I began taking in the furnishings. A collection of victorian rescues given new life with glossy white paint on the wood facing. Brocade upholstery accelerated in hues of lime green and unapologetic teal. One half of a claw foot tub invited me to sit on a cushion of vintage avocado vinyl. Small end tables mingled casually in hot pink. I squeaked with delight and jumped into the room with a gleeful abandon I haven’t experienced since I was a child, discovering the ball pit at IKEA.
I flitted from chair to chair swinging my feet and affecting various conversational poses.
A group of my girlfriends and I now meet here weekly for an hour or so to soak in the atmosphere, eat pastry and enjoy eachothers company. Officially, we call ourselves a book club. I listen as people come up the stairs hoping to overhear a snippet of joyful discovery in the conversation. The comments are all the same. “look!- No really! LOOK!” and “This is what my house would look like if I lived by myself!” or “ It’s like my grandmother's living room…..if my grandmother had been cool!” Laura and Katie have created and gifted Halifax with a space that unlocks something very magical and childlike in us all.
As the space expands it is my understanding that the menu will also. More and more lunchables are appearing in the glass case and I understand there will soon be fresh pasta on offer. Behind the cash a bread schedule advises what’s fresh that day. The quiche tastes as good as it smells while it’s baking, and I’ve been told by aficionados that the croissants are world class. Come early, they often sell out. The upstairs is available for private functions and for my next gift occasion I’ve asked for tickets to a High Tea. Held on Sunday’s, tickets available on the website.
As I said I’m out and about a lot right now, discovering as much as I can about the City so I can show it off this tour season. I’ll keep you posted on what I’m finding!!