History in the baking: 128 years and counting for LaHave Bakery

Posted on February 23, 2024 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments


The historic 128-year-old building on LaHave River, which still has signage from its original owner, LaHave Outfitting Co. (photo credit: LaHave Bakery on Facebook)


A ship chandlery, fish plant and bank all once operated at the historic building on LaHave River that was first constructed well over a century ago. For the past 39 years, it’s been home to LaHave Bakery; its current owners maintain a long tradition of commercial operations on the property.

Early days

The landmark property on LaHave River in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia was built by the Boehner Brothers (local architects) in 1896. Originally, it was constructed as a shipping supply shop and a fish plant for LaHave Outfitting Co. For years, the company fished on the west coast of Nova Scotia and returned to the building where its catch would be salted and re-loaded to make its way to Turks and Caicos for trade. Over time, LaHave Outfitting Co. made significant upgrades to the building to add four freezer rooms to preserve fish before it was shipped west.

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce also once called the building home. The bank moved into the top floor in 1922, where it operated until constructing its own building across the street. The bank’s vaults in the building remain intact today.


A brass cash register made in 1882 that’s still in use at LaHave Bakery today (photo credit: LaHave Bakery on Facebook)

Major investment

Flashforward to the 1980s, the building was in disrepair, with a missing roof, broken windows, collapsing walls and vegetation taking over the top floor. But seeing its potential, Gael Watson and her then-husband Mike purchased the historic building with two friends in 1983.

As the partners began to restore the property, they discussed business opportunities for their new investment. An artist studio, a retail store and a condo building were some of the ideas and they quickly realized that no one was on the same page. Six months later, Mike went to work on a ship down south and the other investors wanted out. This left Gael responsible for the mortgage and future of the building.

Aside from selling her fresh-baked bread to neighbours, this mother of two had no experience in business. However, using ledgers from past business owners she found in an old desk drawer as guidance, Watson began planning how to create a viable bakery. After officially opening LaHave Bakery in 1985, Watson worked day and night baking bread, attending farmers’ markets in Halifax and sailing along the coastline to make sales. Eventually, her efforts paid off.


Fresh-baked bread at LaHave Bakery (photo credit: LaHave Bakery on Facebook)

Growing opportunities

Over time, Watson welcomed other businesses to the restored space while still maintaining full ownership of the building. Soon after the bakery opened, a café also set up shop. In 1996, Watson’s son Jesse launched Homegrown Skateboards, a custom-made skateboard shop, in the building (and added his own skateboard ramp).

In later years, LaHave River Books, a co-op craft shop and a grocery store found their place in the historic property.


LaHave Bakery signage on its historic building (photo credit: Lunenburg Region on Facebook)

Still baking

Today, operations continue at LaHave Bakery in its 128-year-old building, selling a selection of breads, dry goods, sweet treats and much more. Along with the other businesses in her building, Watson maintains its unique history and commerce traditions.

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