Former civil technician turned oatcake crafter has zero regrets

Posted on April 25, 2024 | By Ashley Fitzpatrick | 0 Comments


Gregory Pringle (Submitted photo)

Gregory Pringle says he would never have predicted the sharp turn he took in his working life in 2011. A civil technician for 18 years, supporting civil engineering projects from rotary construction to water main replacements, he would be laid off but soon start on a business based on a childhood passion: oatcakes.

“Losing my job… Yeah, it sucked. But at the end of the day? Best thing that ever happened to me,” he recently told Atlantic Business Magazine.

Pringle describes growing up about 15 minutes from St. Peter’s, on a family homestead of roughly 500 acres filled with “very Scottish” influence. Amongst his fonder memories are winter days spent with his brothers sliding in a field, only to come home to oatcakes just out of the oven, paired with hot chocolate.

His mother baked plenty of homemade goods, including oatcakes, to the point where a young Pringle could make a decent trade with classmates in exchange for “store-bought cookies” and quarters. When his mother became aware of what her son was doing, she started having Pringle help with some of the baking.

“It started evolving from there,” he says, thinking about the roots of his current work.


The Oatcake Society products (Submitted photo)

Not long before his layoff as a technician in 2011, Pringle’s girlfriend noticed an old family oatcake recipe pinned to his fridge. She encouraged him to make some for her to try, then brought some to share with co-workers, friends. Compliments rolled in.

That December, now waiting on his severance package and a start to Employment Insurance, facing down bills and the Christmas season with $100 in his bank account, he decided to make some oatcakes to sell. He put out the word to friends through Facebook and sold 14 dozen his first week, then created a dedicated page and had another 20-dozen ordered in two days. By the second week, he had sold 51 dozen. He made another 75 dozen and brought them to the Saint John City Market the Saturday before Christmas, selling out.

The Cape Breton Oatcake Society was born.

“I didn’t have a mixer. I was doing it all by hand,” he recalls, with a slight laugh now, though he was hardly laughing at the time.

In the years since, Pringle secured not just a mixer but regular time in a commercial kitchen, he’s explored new recipes to expand from his initial two products (original and cranberry) to reach more than 15 products, with a mix of different flavours and gluten free varieties.

… Cape Breton Oatcake Society products can be spotted all around Atlantic Canada, with retail locations in the Maritime provinces.

He’s made an active choice to date to remain present in community markets, particularly the Saint John City Market and the Queen Square Farmers’ Market in the South end of Saint John that operates from Mother’s Day to Thanksgiving. He also works with independent grocers and small retailers, enjoying the one-to-one relationship with a shop owner or market director.

Even leaning into craft more than commercial production, Cape Breton Oatcake Society products can be spotted all around Atlantic Canada, with retail locations in the Maritime provinces. Pringle will take part in the Downhome Expo in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador from May 3-5 and said he’s actively working to offer product more regularly through retail partners in that province.

“I want to keep growing my business,” he said.

“I enjoy what I’m doing.”

Over the years, he said he has taken in a lot of lessons in entrepreneurship. An odd invitation to take part in a wine fair, for instance, led to pairing recommendations and then new recipes for oatcakes made with espresso beans with dark chocolate and crushed chili flakes with dark chocolate.

Pringle said he encourages people to fundamentally follow their more creative urges, to explore things they enjoy and consider the joy or lack thereof in their working lives. Because when it comes to leaving behind his career as a civil technician all those years ago, he has no regrets.

“I wish I had done it sooner,” he said.

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