Having recently celebrated 60 years in business, it’s evident that Leinala’s Bakery has strong roots in the city of Greater Sudbury. It should be said, however, that those roots extend much further.
A testament of courage and hard work, Elli and Arvi Leinala, the founders of Leinala’s Bakery, immigrated to Canada from Finland in 1959, bringing Elli’s passion for baking with them.
Established in 1961, Leinala’s Bakery would grow to be a much-loved mainstay in Greater Sudbury, well-known for their jelly pigs, pulla, and other Finnish goodies.
Six decades and three generations later, the bakery is now run by Aaron Laakso, head baker and grandson of Elli and Arvi Leinala, Aaron’s father Mark, and sister Erika Caron who serves both as manager and cake decorator.
Throughout the history of Leinala’s Bakery, many moments of transformation and have taken place, whether it was a new location, new friendships, or even new recipes. What follows is an intimate look back on those moments, put together by those that loved Elli and Arvi Leinala most.
Although they are certainly a favorite amongst visitors, it will be clear after reading through the following 60 moments over 60 years that Leinala’s Bakery wasn’t built on jelly pigs. It was built on family.
1. During World War 2 in the 1940’s, Elli Leinala was stationed to bake for the Finnish army starting at age of 15. The dark rye bread – nakkileipa (hardtack) – was hung and dried, helping to preserve it.
2. Elli finds that she has a passion for baking and goes to school in Denmark. Obtaining certificates in pastry-making and baking, Elli, alongside her cousin, opens a bakery in Finland’s capital city Helsinki. They name it “nikksi” – trick in Finnish.
3. In 1959, Elli and Arvi decide to immigrate to Canada with all four children, leaving behind everything they knew and loved – the bakery, Arvi’s job as a postal carrier, friends, family and the summer mokki (cottage).
4. 1959 – The family moved to Sudbury and rented North End bakery on Melvin Avenue in the Donovan area. Shown outside of the store are ready to bake Finnish sweets and breads for Sudbury. The first staff was made up of Arvi, Elli, and cousin Naimi. Arvi starts out his new career delivering to general stores throughout the city and Wanup area.
5. Nickel bread – Priced at 5 cents, this was a popular favorite in the Nickel City.
6. February 1961 – Arvi and Elli purchased this very old building in the Donovan – 373 Antwerp Avenue. Once the city dairy (complete with a stable in the back), then Bell Cleaners, the building would next be converted into Leinala’s Bakery. This provided a larger bakery and storefront and also included apartments above. The family would live there until the 1990’s.
7. March 1961 – The grand opening celebration and first staff. Many who worked at the bakery would often stay in the apartments above the store, as a stepping stone to a new start after immigrating to Canada.
8. The bebe – This french pastry is popular in Finland. It’s is introduced to Sudburians and becomes a nostalgic favorite here, too!
9. Creating, making, serving and laughing. Elli is the creative force behind the recipes we still use today.
10. Longtime staff member Anna uses a bread shovel to pull bread out of the huge oven.
11. Sour rye and potato bread are hearty staples in the Finnish diet. Rye bread is to a Finn, what pasta is to an Italian.
12. 1960’s and 1970’s staff, mostly made up of Eastern and Northern European immigrants at the time.
13. Arvi Leinala with Eddie Pointner. Arvi has gotten use to being a businessman as well as baker and enjoys being social.
14. S cookies are made with cardamom and cinnamon. Both spices are often used in Finnish baking.
15. 60’s and 70’s staff photos showing everyone working close together around the huge bake table.
16. Long-time customer Aino, leaving the bakery with her goodies.
17. Family working together – Elli, Arvi and daughters Marjaana and Kirsti.
18. Elli’s creation – buttercream cakes filled with peach and apricot, moistened with rum sugar water.
19. Elli in her happy place, one of the last pictures of her decorating cakes and baking before passing away in December 1978. How amazed she would be today, to see that her passion for baking would carry on into three generations.
20. Left with a void, Arvi and daughter Marjaana, start to run the operations together.
21. Apple turnovers – apple cinnamon filled pastry.
22. Erika is born months after Elli passes and Mark decides to leave his job in underground mining in order to help Marjaana run the store as well as to be in a safer job, and to be there for his family.
23. The delivery guys – for years we delivered to the grocery stores and these drivers insured the shelves were stocked.
24. 1980’s – danish and cinnamon buns.
25. Arvi retirees in 1982. Markku and Marjaana (Leinala) Laakso take over the bakery in 1979 and continue baking together for 30-plus years.
26. Rum tarts – vanilla custard with apple filling and rum icing.
27. Longtime staff Kaarina, Eira and Marjaana working long hours together during Christmas.
28. 1980’s staff party – Helen and Tina both worked many years in the storefront.
29. Traditional Leinala’s Bakery wedding cakes.
30. Marjaana continues making her mothers traditional cakes and will later teach both her children how to make them.
31. Aaron and Erika living above the bakery. The bakery was our second home and eventually would become both of our careers.
32. Pulla – Finnish cardamom coffee bread.
33. Aaron visiting with Arvi pappa who lived at Finlandia Koti before he passed away in 1999. Arvi did not know then, that Aaron would one day become the head baker.
34. 1992 – Mark and Marjaana buy Scandinavian Foods in Plaza 69, when the owner offers to sell it to them before she retires.
35. Mustikkapiirakka – Blueberry pie squares, bebes, and individual cake squares are popular with coffee in the café at Scandinavian Foods.
36. 1994 – Mark and Marjaana decide that running the bakery, delivering to grocery stores, and having the location in Plaza 69 is a lot to juggle with two teens at home. To simplify things, they put all operations in one central location. Everything was moved to the four corners at 272 Caswel drive, where the bakery is still located.
37. Mark and Maila both move from 373 Antwerp to the 272 Caswel location. Maila stays on for many years until 2014. Iris and the coffee guys are also shown.
38. Jelly pigs – raspberry filled sugar donuts.
39. Vickie and Aaron will go on to work for over 20 years together. Aaron left for a time to attend pastry and baking school.
40. Mark comes up with the popular cinnamon twist. He has become comfortable and enjoys baking.
41. Vickie, Kaisa, Ztina, Maria – all longtime staff at Leinala’s Bakery and Scandinavian Foods in the café and wedding planning.
42. Leinala landing party of 50 years. The siblings get together with their families to celebrate 50 years of living in Canada.
43. A multicultural festival in Timmins. The bakery has been involved in many Finnish grand festivals and events over the years. Seeing that Erika was living in Timmins at the time teaching, it was convenient to have her and her family participate there.
44. Toca – the almond tart. Shortbread shells filled with almonds and sweet butter sauce.
45. The morning coffee tables in the café have had many regulars and groups over the years.
46. 2010 – Erika moves home to Sudbury. Her girls start summer/part time jobs while attending high school and post-secondary school.
47. Introducing the blueberry and cherry turnover, the blueberry donut and the cinnamon twist.
48. Seija and Kirsti – forever friends and coworkers.
49. The candy – Finnish salted licorice, black licorice fazer chocolates all imported from Finland.
50. Marjaana retires in 2018 and Erika takes over in the cake room. It takes a little time but eventually she gets the hang of it.
51. Erika cakes – still the same recipe used by Elli, whom Erika unfortunately never met, but is proud to carry on her legacy.
52. Karjalanpiirakas – Finnish rice pies and leihapiirakas – meat pies and dark rye with smoked, fresh-caught manatuline salmon found in the deli.
53. Marjaana teaching Aaron, who takes over as head baker when she retires, and assistant baker Tiana, Aaron’s niece who attends college for a time and comes back to bake full time. They become a strong team.
54. Heart sugar cookies – one of the many Finnish cookies we bake.
55. Cedar sauna bucket and ladle with imported Fnnish vassa sauna soap in birch and pine. It does not melt in the sauna.
56. Mark continues to periodically come in and help, especially on busy days. He has now been baking over 40 years.
57. Masking up! The small group of four adjust to baking and serving during covid. The café closes and operates as an essential service.
58. We start delivering during Covid. Happy customer shares pic with dishes from our imported line of iittala crystal and porcelain. Leinala’s bebes, pulla, and Finnish open-faced sandwiches with our deli meat and rye bread.
59. To inform customers of our Covid operations we step out of our comfort zone (Finns are naturally reserved) and into the future by creating Instagram and Facebook pages and getting more social.
60. ‘Kiitos’ means thank-you in Finnish. We here at Leinala’s want to thank all our customers, staff members, friends, family and Sudbury for all your support over these 60 years. We really are a family of bakers, the bakery is our second home and we strive to honour the legacy we have been handed down and the culture and traditions, best we can. Sudbury has a heart of gold. Your loyalty over the years has been such a blessing to our family and this small business.
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