If there is one thing John and Nicole Moore have learned, it is when life throws you a curveball, you’d better be ready to swing the bat. The owners and operators of Junior Baker, a gluten free bakery in Sarnia, have faced many challenges over the years, but are thrilled to be working together serving the baking needs of their community. “The best part of my day is coming to work with my husband,” Nicole says. “It’s even better when we go home because that’s when we actually have time to sit down and talk about our day.”

John’s original plan was to be a full time musician. The Geddy Lee-loving bass player (who also played keyboards and handled vocals) had a solid 10-year run with his Sarnia-based band Little Wings, but when John and Nicole’s special needs daughter was born, the game plan changed. “I quickly realized she needed me more than a bunch of guys needed me on the road,” John says. “She was born with multiple challenges and so I put down the bass to start the business.”

John was lucky enough to be hired as an apprentice baker. That lasted for five years. “John was let go and he couldn’t find a job,” Nicole says. “We ended up buying a little storefront that we turned into a soup and sandwich café. From there it eventually evolved into a bakery.” The Moores started by selling coffees and teas as well as single-serving pieces of pie, sandwiches and homemade soups. They even did pizza with their own fresh crusts. John says there were a lot of 16-20 hour work days in the beginning. “We made our own bread for the sandwiches and eventually people started asking for a loaf of bread or a full pie to take home. It was always a customer-driven business so when people asked for different options, we did our best to accommodate them.”

The Moores ultimately moved to a larger location, a few doors down from their original restaurant, and Junior Baker was born. John arrives early each morning and does the baking while Nicole handles the customers. Junior Baker continues to be a customer-driven business. “Back in 2004 we had a request to do a gluten-free wedding cake,” Nicole says. “We hadn’t done wedding cakes and we certainly hadn’t done anything gluten-free.” The Moores took on the challenge and delivered a gluten-free carrot cake. The bride’s family loved it. “Her family kept asking for more and more gluten-free products and now, we are 100 percent gluten-free. We don’t do anything with wheat flour anymore.”

Today, Junior Baker features cakes, pastries, breads, and desserts. And how did they come up with the name Junior Baker? “It is actually a job title,” John says. “The junior baker is the guy in the back doing all the work, getting yelled at all the time, and getting no respect. I knew if I ever opened my own bakery it would be called Junior Baker.”