Lessons from a week without water


On Tuesday, January 28th we were unceremoniously tossed out of our management office on the 12th floor of 18 King Street East – and our flagship bakery and back office on the main floor – with an announcement over the speaker system that left no room for discussion: “There is an emergency in the building. Leave the building immediately”.

Apparently everyone agreed that this was different than the usual, “This is a fire drill. Please exit the building in an orderly fashion. I repeat, this is a fire drill”, because the stairwells were jammed and slow-moving but we finally emerged to chilly Toronto.

I will spare you the details but we didn’t return to our offices or the kitchen and bakery until a full week later because of a water main leak underneath King Street.

I will say this: it was a major pain, requiring a lot of juggling of everything from schedules and customers’ orders to ingredients between stores.

In the end, the closure of course had a negative impact on both our sales and our team’s hours but it could have been worse and what made it okay was mostly – as always- the people involved, both the PGB team and our customers.

What I learned from the Water Main Closure of 2020:
1. It is really great to have online ordering. Although we were physically closed at our largest kitchen and store, it was still possible for customers to buy even if that meant buying for a different date than they’d otherwise choose.
2. Other locations provide a business with breathing room. This is a pretty obvious one, but with 3 stores within a relatively close distance, it was possible to fulfill orders already placed for the 18 King East location elsewhere.
3. It is super great to have managers with complex problem solving skills. Both Andrea and Ailish (Baking; Catering/Customer Service) are strategic thinkers who can take a problem (one of five stores closed for an indefinite time) and figure out the best way to plan around it: what needs to be turned off on the online ordering; who needs to be rescheduled to work at a different store; what needs to be transported to other stores; what communication is required to customers and the team. This isn’t simple and they did it on the fly for a week.
4. Ditto (as in, again super great) to have a team that rolls with ever-changing plans and loyal customers willing to pick up their orders at other stores. Amazing.

And now we are full speed into Valentine’s week, our first Valentine’s in Markham and also over at Brookfield Place- exciting – will let you know how that all goes next week!! In the meantime, I wish you a very Happy Valentine’s 2020!

About the author

Jean Blacklock

Jean opened the popular Prairie Girl Bakery in the financial district of Toronto in 2011. She owned and operated the business until it closed in 2021 as a result of the pandemic’s impact on downtown Toronto. Read more about her background in commerce, law, and entrepreneurship here.

By Jean Blacklock


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