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Fivie Gunn with new Gunn’s owner Jon Hochman. (Bernie Gunn is away for the winter.)

By MYRON LOVE
Gunn’s Bakery, western Canada’s oldest, continuous, family-owned bakery is under new management. Fivie and Bernie Gunn have passed the torch to a new, younger owner in the person of Jon Hochman.

 

“It was time for younger blood,” says Fivie.
Gunn’s Bakery was established by Fivie and Bernie’s parents, Polish immigrants Morris and Florence Gunn in 1937 on Selkirk Avenue - then the heart of the Jewish North End. Next door was the Hebrew Sick Benevolent Association Building – which also served as a venue for Yiddish theatre - and the old Talmud Torah School was just a block away.
Over the years, in good times and bad, as the neighbourhood changed and our Jewish community migrated to other parts of the city, not only did Gunn’s Bakery survive , but the establishment flourished – drawing loyal customers of different faiths and ethnic groups from all over Winnipeg and beyond.
As well, Gunn’s over the years expanded its offerings to include kosher cheeses and meats and catering services for all occasions.
There has been speculation in the community for a while that Fivie and Bernie – with no family members interested in stepping up to succeed them in business - were looking for a younger individual to take over the bakery – and, in Jon Hochman, they have found just the right match.
Although just 32, the son of Jerry and Arlene Hochman already has a lengthy history in food preparation and sales. He has been working in the restaurant industry since he was a teen – both as chef and, more recently, restaurant owner. Over the past four years, he had been the proprietor of Sherbrook Street Delicatessen.
The deli, which Hochman closed in September, served Jewish-style favourites such as smoked meats, corned beef, salami and chopped liver. “As I became more involved in the food industry, I found myself drawn back to my Jewish roots,” says Hochman, a third-generation food industry guy. (The Hochman Family operated for years the Oasis Delicatessen which was located just about a block away from Gunn’s.)
“While operating the Sherbrook Delicatessen, I got to know Fivie and became aware of this opportunity to buy this Winnipeg institution that is renowned for the quality of its food.”
Fivie adds that he was a regular customer at the deli and was impressed with Jon’s talent and ability. “I became convinced that Jon was the right purchase to continue the Gunn’s tradition,” he says.
The deal had a “baking” period of about 14 months.
“I am not planning any changes,” says Hochman of his new kosher bakery. “I am keeping all of the current staff (some of whom go back 35 and 40 years) Down the road, I might add to the product selection. My goal is to continue to operate Gunn’s as it was under Fivie and Bernie’s leadership.”
Fivie notes that Gunn’s has been the only place where he has ever worked and, although the bakery has a new owner, both he and Bernie will be sticking around for some time yet.
“There isn’t the kind of business where we feel that we can just hand someone else the keys and walk away,” he says. “There is a lot to learn and we have a lot of information to pass on to Jon. We are anxious to make sure that Jon is able to succeed and continue to grow the business.”

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