Canadian design studio Ste Marie has recently designed Flourist, a 2,800-sq.-ft. bakery and cafe in East Vancouver that showcases Vancouver’s only community-based flour mill. The first fully traceable grain, beans, and flour company, Flourist provides premium dry goods and fresh, stone-milled flours and offers an alternative to the highly processed and rancid flours commonly found on grocery store shelves and in the bulk bins of mystery beans and grains of unknown origins. Flourist is guided by three key principles: working exclusively with Canadian family farms to showcase the high-quality crops produced by family farmers; ensuring all products are fresh, and committing to 100 percent transparency in a category that is otherwise dominated by opaque supply chains and mysterious origins. At its core, Flourist connects people with the sources of their food and every product to the farmers who grow them.
“Our client, Flourist, works to help ensure farming remains a family business in Canada,” explains Ste Marie. “This notion of transparency carried into the design process. We began by turning to the guiding principles of 18th-Century Shaker communities: simplicity, utility and honesty. An isolated, egalitarian sect, the Shaker communities in North America were largely self-sufficient. Members grew their own food, constructed their own buildings, and manufactured their own tools and furnishings in an attempt to create their own heaven-on-earth.”
Building off the Shaker principles and pastiche, the interior of the Mill + Bakery highlights abundance and warmth with a straightforward approach. A palette of malty tones taken from Flourist’s grains and pulses, enveloping the space like a field of wheat. In front, there is large community table with a small sink that is intended to allow for bread-making workshops.
The dowelled shelves at the retail space extend in front of the window, allowing the bounty to creep into the public realm, to invite curious onlookers to come inside. Backing the space is the functional flour mill–a clear articulation of the transparency that informs Flourist–uninterested in the delineations between design and function. “Our design for the Flourist Mill + Bakery adduces the nourishment of art, presented as a loaf of bread,” says the studio.
The new bakery and cafeteria, located at 3433 Commercial St., features a menu of hearty vegetarian meal options, creative sourdough toasts, and other baked goods — all made with flour milled on-site — as well as an assortment of their amazing sourdough loaves to take home. Customers are also encouraged to browse a selection of inspiring cookbooks while enjoying the space before shopping the retail area for their own cooking and baking pursuits.
The 48-seat bakery and cafeteria prominently displays the company’s second flour mill. Customers can see the mill behind picture windows as it grinds grain, sourced from Canadian family farms, into fine flour for immediate use on site. Flourist does not use any white flour in the production of their bread or baked goods, instead opting to use their freshly milled flour exclusively. The company has been vocal in its stance against processed flours found in grocery stores, which are manufactured in a way that prioritizes shelf-life over flavour and nutrition.
“Everyone at Flourist is thrilled to have opened the doors to our first brick-and-mortar location to bring our vision for high quality, transparent and delicious food to life,” said Shira McDermott, co-founder of Flourist. “Flourist brick and mortar locations are the next stage of our effort to disrupt the traditional and overly commodified food supply chain, which is particularly egregious in the grain, beans and flour markets,” she said. Flourist has already earned a reputation and following for promoting farmers and supplying traceable, farm-direct grains and beans to restaurants, retailers and consumers through the company’s online store at Flourist.com.
McDermott and co-founder Janna Bishop partnered with Craig Stanghetta, principal and creative director at Ste. Marie Art and Design, to design the new space.“We wanted the space to feel like standing in a wheat field on a perfect sunny day—a nice counterpoint to some of those grey Vancouver days,” Stanghetta said, “The emotional seed of this place is bread and sunshine, but we also wanted to somehow reflect the two folks who started Flourist: fun and bright, but also clever, focused, thoughtful and delightful in all kinds of unexpected ways. That certainly speaks to the space and, I believe, also embodies Janna and Shira. To pull it all off we incorporated a mix of a farmhouse sensibility and good Scandinavian design principles. The outcome is a space that should look classic and current but also fresh and fun in the same breath.”
In addition to casual food and bakery items inspired by Flourist’s extensive and publicly available recipe collection, Flourist customers can now buy in-store all the items currently available on the company’s website, including freshly milled flour. Until now, the stone-ground flour products have only been available online through the Flourist website. They will continue to wholesale an extensive line of whole grains and beans and freshly-milled flours to their restaurant partners and ship orders to people across North America through the online store.