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Thompson Hotels Toronto Influencers X Melody Saari


A Passion for Paleo

Need a treat for your health-conscious crew? Almond Butterfly hits the (sweet) spot, selling baked goods that cater to a range of dietary needs. If you’re paleo or gluten-free, owner Melody Saari and her crew serve up delicious options you’d never guess are free of flour, dairy, soy, or grains. Whether you’re in the mood for cinnamon buns, cookies, muffins, or even bagels and hot sandwiches, they’ve got you covered. This season, Almond Butterfly is even taking orders for apple pies, pumpkin pies, and yule log cakes. Below, Saari tells us more about her bustling epicurean business. For more information, check out the Almond Butterfly Instagram account and Facebook page.  

You’re located in Harbord Village. How’d you decide to set up shop there, and what do you love about the area?
We love Harbord Village. It’s a vibrant little community with a strong local and University presence. We searched for two months, looking at numerous locations throughout the Greater Toronto Area. I found a listing for the Harbord location on Craigslist and asked the realtors to set up an appointment. Our realtors actually tried to discourage us from looking at the space at first, stating that Harbord wasn’t the greatest location for a startup business at that time. However, I found the area charming and exciting, so I overrode their objections…sometimes you have to go with your instincts! Harbord Village sees a great mix of students and working professionals, not to mention all the families that live in the area, which was a great blend of our target demographics. The community has supported us ever since we opened our doors in June 2014, and we genuinely feel that we have contributed to the appeal of the area for new businesses and patrons alike.

How did you initially become interested in baking, and then learn how to bake gluten-free goods in particular?
I come from a family that loves to cook and bake. After finishing my university degree in psychology at The University of British Columbia, I moved to Toronto to manage a great Muay Thai Kickboxing gym called TKMT. After four years there, I moved to Montreal to pursue opportunities in the health and fitness industry. I joined a CrossFit gym, where I met my partner David. He also has a strong entrepreneurial drive and comes from a business background. At the time, I was cooking and baking all of my own gluten-free food and getting great results. I thought: how wonderful would it be to open a cafe that was health-minded (another passion of mine), and supply it with my own baked goods and sandwiches?  

David and I created the Almond Butterfly brand and started selling my gluten-free and paleo baked goods to the CrossFit community. Later on, we began wholesaling our baked goods to six different high-end cafes in Montreal, as well as retailing our baked goods through our website. We operated as a home-based baking business for about three years. However, as sales volume increased, we outgrew our space and knew we had to expand to a store-front location if we wanted to maintain a sustainable business model. Plus, David and I both agreed that it would be so much more fun to have our own place. Initially, we wanted to open in Montreal. Ultimately, we decided to move the business to Toronto to be closer to friends and family. It was a huge risk, and we were sad to leave Montreal and our substantial following there. Yet Toronto has been hugely successful for us. I guess people just like really tasty gluten-free food!

Describe some newer offerings on your menu or goods that you’ll introduce this winter.
We are working on more vegan options for our vegan customers. Hopefully, one day we’ll make some delicious gluten-free croissants. Those are still very rare, but we’re working on it. 

Why should more Torontonians look into eating paleo or gluten-free?
Generally speaking, the ingredients that go into gluten-free and paleo baking in a small commercial bakery are higher quality and healthier than mass produced non-gluten-free alternatives. We focus on organic flours when possible, nut flours, organic coconut flours, ground flax, and chia seeds, and prefer to use local maple syrup, and other natural sweeteners in our baking. Anything that is freshly made from scratch is going to be healthier for you in general, but whether you are celiac or not, more and more people are becoming intolerant to gluten and dairy and experience relief from digestive issues once they switch to a completely gluten-free diet. Eating paleo is an even better option, as it forces you to eat unrefined whole foods that offer more nutrients and make you feel more energetic. Almond Butterfly offers delicious paleo muffins, paleo coconut bites, and even decadent paleo molten lava cakes.