After 15 years of baking bread, it’s time to take a Pita Break.
But not for long, as the family-owned business recently expanded to Vaughan, opening a full commercial bakery at 11 Director Ct.
“Vaughan was convenient for us,” said Alon Ozery, the bakery’s founder. “It’s a central location.”
Pita Break, which started as a 700 square foot sandwich shop at Yonge and Wellesley Streets, now employs approximately 150 workers and sells products across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. They operate as Ozery Bakery Inc. in the U.S.
Alon established the original sandwich shop in 1996 along with his father Al and his brother Guy. He created a business plan while studying at Ryerson University.
Initially, they simply made pitas for the sandwiches they sold. The family is Israeli with some roots in Yemen and has a long history of baking bread. Purchasing bread for their sandwiches was not an option.
“At all our family gatherings we’d make fresh pita, you don’t buy bread,” Alon said. “That was fascinating to me. I loved the baking.”
At first, like any small business, they struggled. Al, who was 61 at the time, invested his life savings into the eatery.
“He put every penny he had in this store, and then we had to borrow a lot more,” Alon said.
Within a few months, they started having lineups. It wasn’t long before the company had expanded to selling their pitas to stores in downtown Toronto such as Pusateri’s.
They gradually expanded to larger chains such as Longo’s, Loblaws and Metro. Today they are sold at Costco and Whole Foods Market as well.
The key to their success is simple: make healthy, tasty products with natural ingredients. And have fun while doing it.
“The formula seems to have worked for us, and we’re very, very thankful for that,” Alon said.
Testament to that is Pita Break’s motto, “Happy people baking”.
The company has developed new products such as mini pitas, breakfast pitas and their signature lavash crackers. All their products are certified kosher.
“We kind of veered away from the conventional pita,” Alon said. “We kind of Canadianized or Americanized them.”
Now 15 years later, the company still uses many of their original recipes, and while most of their products are created by assembly line, Alon explains it’s the natural ingredients and attention to detail that makes their breads special.
He points out that while conventional pitas are made in about an hour, the Pita Break method takes almost triple that time.
“That’s the difference between us and other pita manufacturers,” Alon contends. “It’s a much slower process.”
At the company’s 15th anniversary, Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua was on hand to congratulate them on their success.
“That you’ve lasted 15 years also speaks to a wonderful reality,” Bevilacqua said. “As mayor of this city, I’m very happy you’re here.”
The mayor noted the family’s immigrant roots and mentioned how his own family experienced humble beginnings.
“Those of us who have lived through the immigrant experience really do come here with a dream, a dream to better ourselves,” Bevilacqua said. “But somehow as it often happens, in our journey to better ourselves we provide greater opportunities for others.”
Bevilacqua commended the family for choosing Vaughan as Pita Break’s new home and providing approximately 150 employees with work.
“This is much more than just a business,” he said. “This is providing many, many families with their livelihood. This is about expanding opportunities for a lot of people.”
Al anchored the mayor’s words with his own anecdote, sharing an encounter he recently had with an employee who emigrated from China.
“One employee told me, I’ve been working for this company for 10 years,” Al said. “I built a house, my daughter is in university, this is my first job and I hope this will be my last job.
“We are a family of immigrants, we started a business that employs (mostly) immigrants, we gave the opportunity to work and to earn money and to make a living. If we’ve achieved that . . . that’s good enough for me.”