Nova Era Bakery
Established in 1991 in the GTA’s growing Portuguese community, Nova Era Bakery came to the Toronto market when European-style bakeries and coffee houses with neighbourly atmosphere were unheard of, yet highly desired. Nova Era offers patrons a friendly and relaxing sit-down environment with neighbourly service.
Started by Joe Dias, the Dias family remains faithful to the Portuguese traditional coffee, bread and pastries. The Dias passion for coffee and food recreates cafés and bakeries found in Portugal and all over Europe, a place that functions as a place of gathering and leisure — leisure and indulgence represented by one’s favourite cup of coffee and pastry.
The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Alex Dias, Director of Operations, and the herald of the Dias tradition in Nova Era. “My father started Nova Era in Toronto’s Little Portugal. That was our founding location. Today, we have 10 locations mostly in the GTA but also in London, Kitchener and Ajax. The London and Ajax locations are franchised,” says Dias.
While coffee is a staple in the western cultures, when Dias Sr. started the business, the Canadian market only knew the grab & go fast food coffee places. “20 years ago people in Toronto did not have the luxury of going into a coffee shop and having, quality European coffee and pastries, and simply enjoying and indulging themselves. Nova Era was a completely different concept. My father’s inspiration behind Nova Era Bakery was to bring the experience, the food and beverages that people traditionally enjoy in Portugal and Europe. The inspiration was to provide the experience enjoyed by the Europeans,” days Dias.
Today’s market is oversaturated with competition and multinationals such as Tim Hortons and Starbucks; however, Dias considers these large companies an indirect competition due to the unique nature of the Nova Era offering. “What we offer is not exactly what customers of these large companies are getting or even looking for. I think what sets us apart is the value and the experience. Nova Era is a very personal experience. Our regular customers have relationships with our employees; they interact and have conversations, developing relationships and friendships. There is a sense of family and community at Nova Era,” says Dias.
The direct competition for Nova Era generally lies within the neighbourhood’s other local coffee places. Nova Era retains competitive prices, as well as integrity of its products, from pastries and coffee, to bread and cakes. “I believe we have gained the customers’ trust and confidence, so when they come here they will get the best, fresh product at an affordable price,” says Dias.
Founded on the traditional approach to quality food and services, the Dias family maintains the traditional methods of baking and food preparation with zero shortcuts. All pastry and bread is handmade and freshly baked daily, and to better reflect on patrons’ needs, Nova Era also expanded its menu from coffee and pastry to a menu that satisfies, including a variety of freshly made sandwiches, salads and soups. On that menu one can find the traditional Portuguese Tosta Mista, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. It is Nova Era’s best selling sandwich and has been part of the menu since the bakery opened.
Coffee and Pastry
Coffee and Pastries remain the main attraction at Nova Era. Espresso and espresso-based coffees are a part of this European coffee tradition, and have been part of Nova Era’s offering since the bakery first opened. The bakery understands the coffee connoisseur, and provides the richest quality beverage possible.
The Portuguese pastry tradition permeates Nova Era Bakery’s philosophy of quality and uniqueness, with breads, cakes, and pastries being prepared with the heart of this tradition. And even if it is the Portuguese tradition that transcended Nova Era into a successful business, the bakery also expanded its offering, and creating new products that reflect on traditions of other cultures and popular demand.
“We listen to our customers because they are our key point of interest. We listen to our customers when they approach us with ideas, whether it’s in regard to new product, or an improvement on an existing product. We take all suggestions into consideration. We try to stay innovative and we do our best to address market trends, such as the development of our creative cakes and cupcakes, working with store managers but also our suppliers and distributors’ to help us develop new products and develop the best methods of production. We also use the latest trends in marketing such as web and social media to get our message out there,” says Dias.
Dias sees many retail opportunities in the market for the Nova Era quality, whether it be in the GTA or the rest of Ontario. The company receives enquiries whether Nova Era would expand into other neighbourhoods. “We receive requests from customers and those seeking franchise opportunities to open Nova Era locations from Brampton, Mississauga, Scarborough, etc., and we just love to get that kind of feedback. There are many markets we would like to be in, but it’s not just a simple matter to expand at a rate our patrons would like to see,” laughs Dias. “Maintaining our traditional methods and product quality is most important to us.”
Besides the retail market, Nova Era has not yet fully explored the wholesale opportunities, and the company realizes that there is whole other market for products Nova Era produces, whether its restaurants, banquet halls, catering, and events. “A more interesting opportunity for us is to begin working with national grocers in Canada, as we would like to produce and start to sell the Portuguese egg custard tarts nationwide. I have never met anyone who tasted them and didn’t like them. I doubt Portuguese bakeries here or around the world would be as successful if it wasn’t for this signature pastry,” says Dias. According to Dias, unless one tastes a Pastel de Nata, one will never quite understand what Nova Era is all about, as this pastry represents the staple of Portuguese homemakers and bakeries. This custard tart has been also taken on by many cultures worldwide, creating their own version of this unique pastry. In Asia, international food chain KFC has introduced the popular tart as part of its dessert menu. Nova Era has become so renowned for this signature pastry that Food Network Canada’s Food Factory plans to shoot its segment on the Pastel de Nata with Nova Era.
Whether you are a connoisseur of delicate pastries, baked goods, or quality European-style coffee and a welcoming atmosphere, Nova Era is a place to visit and indulge.