Pinch Bakery and Plant Shop

Just off Sherman and Barton, Pinch Bakery and Plant Shop is where you can get your fix of amazing baked goodies and green up your space all in one spot. Craving cinnamon buns AND need a new succulent for your houseplant collection? This place is for you. They also offer gardening consultations, catering, and in-store events.


Note: Pinch is co-owned by Stef Dubbeldam and Amanda Wright. These answers were provided by Stef, with the exception of those in italics by Amanda.

Tell us about yourself and your business.

We launched Pinch in 2022 but didn’t open our shop doors on Sherman until June 2023 – there’s a long story for another time there. But we have three main aspects to our business – a bakery, a restaurant, and a retail plant shop. We are also very transparent about our ethical and political beliefs, and really believe in investing in our community, both in terms of our neighbours and our small business neighbours! We are a nut-free facility open five days a week, host workshops, farmer’s markets and parent’s groups, offer catering and custom orders including our cakes, meal service daily as well as coffee, tea and a smattering of other beverages including slushies in the summer. We also offer plant education opportunities, potting services, and seedlings & local flowers in the appropriate seasons!


Plants and treats makes perfect sense in practice, but it isn’t the most obvious pairing for a business concept. How did the idea come about?

This is the easiest story for me to tell. We have always loved treats, plants and shopping, so it became a regular weekend activity for us to go get a coffee & a treat and then wander around greenhouses, often driving 2 hours out of town. I had started collecting plants years ago, had amassed a bit of an indoor jungle and was making educational content online for fun, and Amanda had been hosting fundraising bake sales with her candy business, Sweet & Simple Co, so we were both kind of experimenting with passions of ours. When the pandemic hit, we were working as health care administrators and both baking and plant care became mainstream interests. Like many others, we were edging on burnout and started talking about what it would look like for us to put our favourite activity together. She has always dreamed of owning a bakery, and I had been banging my head against a wall trying to figure out how to pivot my career to be built on this passion which I was now going to school for outside of work. Everyone has those friends they talk about opening a business with, but at some point it stopped being a dream and was one of those things that was like, ok what’s the next thing we need to do to make this a reality? And then it was too much fun so we just accidentally opened a restaurant haha!


What vibe can people expect when they visit Pinch?

Pinch is such an interesting vibe because the reality is that neither of us have ever really worked in restaurants before, so don’t expect it to be a typical restaurant. We also do not serve espresso-based drinks, which we get complaints about ALL THE TIME. Our theory is that’s a huge commitment and not always that profitable, so one of us would have to be really passionate about making espresso, and neither of us are. I don’t really even drink it, I would prefer a balanced drip coffee but its very hard to find a *good* drip sometimes. So maybe the vibe is whatever we want it to be? Definitely heavy notes of queerness, as I am queer as well as the majority of our staff. But we also have a big soft spot for kids and parents in the shop, which you don’t always see in predominantly queer spaces. We like to keep the toys right by the door so when kids visit, they right away see recognizable visual cues that they are at home here. We also prioritize accessibility in as many ways as possible, so that includes barrier free access, lower music volumes, clearly labelled allergens, a lower serving counter area and a change table. We’re located in an old building that has exposed brick and gorgeous wood floors, but also our ceiling is pink and we currently have a bunting over the cash made of strips from plastic table clothes, so its kind of a curated hodgepodge. The vibe is – be who you are here, as you are!


What is your approach to food and what do you offer in the way of treats and catering?

Since opening Sweet & Simple back in 2015, my approach to food & sweets in particular, has been to focus on breathing new life into the classics. I don’t believe that things need to be complicated to be delicious, and making simple ingredients shine is truly a pleasure. Our Perfect Cookies were a labour of love to get a chocolate chip cookie just as I remember from my childhood best friend’s mom (arguably the addition of flaky salt makes ours a bit better). Now that we’ve delved into the relm of meal service, my approach remains the same, but now we get to work with local and seasonal produce in a new way. Our menu is pretty straight forward, and nothing comes close to our Classic Grilled Cheese – an ohmage to my mother who still makes me a grilled cheese any time I show up to their house.


At any given time in the shop, you can find a selection of cookies, squares, sweet and savoury pastries & if you’re lucky, our Banana Pudding with a Salty Whip. We offer up all of our shop treats for custom orders along with cakes, and light meal service. My favourite catering orders are the charcuterie style spreads with sweet or savoury treats (they’re really great for weddings too).


Amanda is an incredibly intelligent baker. Her recipes sometimes seem simple or classic, but she treats each component as a way to build on flavour, and it really comes through, especially her understanding of salt. There’s also such a wholesome joy found in her treats, and she really thinks through our menu to make sure there are always options for everyone – I can’t begin to describe how much time she has spent worrying over catering orders because maybe there wasn’t enough food (there always is) or she forgot to include a particular dietary request (she didn’t). We don’t really worry about the nutritional aspect of our food, we believe getting a little treat is a morally neutral choice, but instead really try to create a balanced bite that gives you that full-rounded satisfaction.


Your values are evidently at the heart of what you do. What does community mean to you as a small business owner?

When we were first getting serious about Pinch, we bought an online digital business planner which helped us set up some core principles for us. We settled on Accessibility, Sustainability, Community and Joy, and have always been happy to let those words mean all the shades of their meanings. Community has been built into our framework – our first real public move came when we launched a Kickstarter that was fully funded in 4 days, and while that story is part of the longer one I mentioned earlier, it really positioned us to think about our business as something that was accountable to our community. Since then, it’s always felt like the community has had a part-ownership in Pinch, like pivots we’ve made over time because maybe that wasn’t in the original plan but it seems like the community wants it and we have the ability to do it! And to be clear, being in community has paid off for us way more than any other business decision we’ve made. It’s truly not easy being a small business right now, especially in food service, but we have very little fear about the future of Pinch these days, and I can honestly say that’s because our customers have told us with their words, actions and money that they are as committed to us as we are to them, and we’re extremely honoured to get to host this space for all of them.


You’re located on Sherman Ave N, a more unlikely area of the city. Tell us what you love about the area. 

We were always committed to Ward 3 for a lot of reasons – I know most of what we talk about is the nice fluffy stuff, but we also knew what we were doing haha! I guess you can’t get this far into business without being good at business, but the reality is we always knew we were looking for an area that had families around. We also knew we were likely going to be interacting with our Ward councillor, and at the time, the current City roster left much to be desired. With Ward 3, we knew we aligned with Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann and that mattered to us when it comes to the investment we were about to make. We really wanted to be a part of a BIA as well, and while we technically fall just outside the boundaries for Barton Village, we felt there was an open door being cracked our way (and now we are the first Associate Members of the Barton Village BIA!). This area already has such a great community and it felt like we really wanted to serve that community, not just bring in folks from all over Hamilton. We have the Hamilton Craft Studios and the Cotton Factory just up the street so we have some regulars that need their weekly grilled cheese or someone’s in trouble. We’ve got a huge passion for serving our immediate neighbours so we do keep many items on our menu at very affordable prices, since we are in one of the lowest income brackets in the downtown, but we’re also mindful that we’re white women who showed up one day and now there’s less parking on the street, more hubbub in general. You have to be aware of the role you are playing in gentrification. We watch housing prices in the area, waiting for the day they go up and some of our neighbours might lose their housing – its a very real fear of ours. Maybe that’s another reason for not getting an espresso machine, if I’m being honest, same as how we have gone back and forth a million times over what to do with our liquor license. So I guess maybe a part of me doesn’t want to tell you what I love about the area. Maybe there’s something in not trying to appeal to the masses but rather appeal to the ones right around you. Maybe there is a shop in your neighbourhood and you should love on that one right now. Sherman North is great because of the people that live there – which is true for places like Durand, Rooney’s, Vintage, Ark & Anchor, Cafe Oranje – all these places are doing an excellent job of serving their neighbours. That’s what we love about Sherman – our neighbours.


Besides your own place, where else do you like to spend time in Hamilton?

That’s a tough one, because being in our first year of business, we don’t have a lot of disposable income, so naming that we have a lot more on our want-to-try list! We love walks for treats, or to stop in to visit some of our pals who have helped us build our business along the way. Willard’s is one of our favourites to show off to folks visiting because the flavours are incredible and very inclusive (they are also nut-free and have some great vegan options), and it’s perfect for taking a stroll through Gage Park with. If we’re feeling fancy, we will grab some bacon from Cumbrae’s in Dundas to make breakfast at home, or go on a drive out to the Dutch Mill to get produce for the shop. We love the bagels at Rooney’s and the donuts at Cafe Baffico, but our all-time favourite pre-event meal is always going to be Mike’s Subs on Ottawa. We love popping in to see Whitney at Girl on the Wing or Clay at Studio 205, and we miss being pop-up neighbours with Nabi at Daddy’s Plastics on James for a quick browse. We just got slices from Flora and sat outside to enjoy a late lunch, and when we’re feeling tired all over, that’s time for a Fattoush salad from La Luna. Special occasions call for Mai Pai and one time we got a gift card to Quatrefoil and wow, I love a pavlova and that one comes second (first is obviously Amanda’s).


Any advice to small business owners wanting to open up shop in Hamilton?

One time I was interviewed by some business students at Mohawk and I told them our story. They asked us at the end if we had any advice, and I said that if you heard everything I just said and you still want to go into business, you might be alright, because any truly sane person would walk away, but that’s not the entrepreneurial spirit. It is hands down the hardest thing we have ever done. It is expensive, the hours are long, and you don’t get days off. It is also extremely lonely at times – most of our friends are in different life stages than we are right now, and it can feel isolating, so find some good Biz Buds to lean on. Or if you are able to do so, bring on a good second-in-command – we found a rocket booster in our General Manager, Tessa, and they have poured so much into our business that we will likely have to offer them shares if we ever choose to incorporate, or more likely we will force it upon them because we will need a split vote, because business partnership struggles are REAL. Communicate so much more than you think is necessary. You’re going to have to get very good at trying things, and very good at being kind to yourself when they don’t work out. Everything is going to take longer than you think it will, cost more that you expected, and the things you should actually be worried are not even on your radar yet. But find someone who knows more than you and listen, and then do that ten more times. Business doesn’t look just one way, but the world does make it easier for some things, and harder for others. Choose what matters to you, and fight for that. But also remember, we’re still new at this, so maybe check back in a few years and see if we’re still sticking to that advice – we might need to come back to it ourselves.