|Dempster's Staff of Life Bakery is visible in the background of this streetcar track construction shot taken along Dundas Street on July 19, 1917. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 58, Item 681.|
Another long-lasting bread name who entered the field at this time was James Dempster. Born in Scotland in 1855, Dempster’s family migrated to Toronto and established a bakery at the northeast corner of Argyle Street and Dovercourt Road, later the site of rival firm Ideal Bread. During the early 1890s, James struck out on his own to open Dempster’s Staff of Life bakery, which settled into its permanent home on the north side of Dundas Street west of Ossington Avenue after the turn of the century. Though it remained in the same location for the next half-century, its address changed several times due to expansions and the eastern extension of Dundas Street past Ossington during World War I.
|Advertisement, Toronto Star, March 23, 1915.|
Dempster’s notions of purity extended to his personal life. He was a dedicated member of Wesley Methodist Church, which stood a few doors east of the bakery at the present site of St. Christopher House. During the church’s golden jubilee in 1925, Dempster flexed his musical talent through a vocal solo during a special gathering for young churchgoers. His enjoyment of wheat did not extend to its liquid form, as he was an energetic temperance advocate.
|Advertisement, Toronto Star, June 23, 1921.|
The Dempster factory remained on Dundas until 1959, when it moved to Fraser Avenue in present-day Liberty Village. The site was divvied up, with the main portion renamed the Resulta Building. Tenants over the next few decades ranged from adding-machine firms to meat-cutting training institutes.
The 1172 Dundas St. W. address debuted in the 1983 city directory, which listed an optometrist as its tenant. After housing a Portuguese social club, the building returned to its edible origins when Nova Era Bakery moved in during the early 1990s. While a sign on the side of the building promises fresh bread baked around the clock, the inscription above Nova Era’s front entrance still proudly announces “Dempster’s Staff of Life.”
Additional material from Bread Men by Charles Davies (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1987), the April 1, 1942 edition of the Globe and Mail, and the March 15, 1915, June 23, 1921, and January 7, 1929 editions of the Toronto Star.