The Sparling family have lived in Tavistock for over 20 years and been a fixture in the business community for nearly seven years with D&D Homestyle Cuisine & Café. Doug Sparling is a Red Seal Chef and only entertained the idea of being self-employed after a long stint at his previous employer came to an end.
“I was with Compass Group Canada for 19 years. They take care of cafeterias for factories and hospitals and my job was to go in when there were problems, so I was a trouble shooter for their operations.” Doug says he always thought about having his own business, but the timing wasn’t right. “When I was with Compass, I had a job I liked and I was settled in. When I was laid off, I was older and when I applied for jobs no one wanted to hire me. My wife Diane had a daycare, so we decided to make frozen entrees and sell them, and I filled a freezer in the house.” Doug shifted production to the nearby Men’s Club kitchen but that wasn’t ideal as he had to package everything there then bring it back home to the freezer.
“Diane suggested we find a little place to cook and sell out of a storefront. We started looking around and then decided to do soup and sandwiches, then the kids suggested we sell ice cream too. It started to grow more and more, and we found the place we are in now. The landlord agreed to build to our needs, and we ended up with what we have,” says Doug. “We started with the main side of the building and made the decision that everything we did will be made from scratch. All the meat we bring in isn’t processed and we cook them right on site.”
The people next door moved out eventually and Doug and Diane were approached with a good price to rent out that side. “We put more seating in and then the pandemic hit and our inside dining was closed. We needed to find ways to get our sales up. People were coming to us saying they couldn’t get yeast, couldn’t get flour because the grocery stores weren’t able to stock it so we started to bring those products in and packaged them ourselves and our retail sales started to grow.” He then added home made jams, apple butter, and other items not often found at grocery stores. Hayter’s turkey products and Earliedale summer sausage have also hit the shelves along with the Five Corner coffee blend. “We named it after the five-corner intersection just outside the store… the one that everyone knows and loves,” he laughs. “It is roasted by Baden Coffee Company, and we sell it by the cup or in a bag for customers to take home. It has gone over really well.”
When the business first started Doug wanted to ensure there was a noticeable feeling of family. “The whole idea of opening was for the public. We wanted to accept anyone and have them feel like they were coming into their own home. Having family working here helps create that sense of welcome and we get a lot of comments. People realize we treat them like they were ours.”
The couple’s children have both worked at D&D over the years and two sandwiches are named after them, the Blair and the Canadian Girl. “Blair’s was a fluke because he would come in after school and make it and then would tell his friends who would come in and ask for it. I was like, what is the Blair? So, I found out what it was and put it on the menu. The Canadian Girl is named after my daughter, Chantelle. She just didn’t want her name on it.”
This time of year, the business is preparing for another Christmas catering season. “Once the last round of COVID-19 restrictions was lifted people started to call. We are almost fully booked all the way through to Christmas now. We can deliver to your home, to a hall, and businesses as far away as Woodstock. We can do from small to large and up to 200 people for a wedding. We can also do individual Christmas dinners along with family size ones. They come in foil and just need to be reheated in the oven.”
As for the future, Doug says that will really depend on what happens with the pandemic and any new potential restrictions along with consumer preferences. “I don’t know. We just keep changing to what the public wants and what we need to sell to keep the business going.”
Learn more about D&D Homestyle Cuisine & Café: https://ddhomestylecuisine.com
Watch their Oxford Shopping Channel – Rural Oxford Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vgSwseqKEA&list=PLh47Sk-IETTigRuVbWJWWZmamKwnKbi5w&index=24&t=6s