The Red Square Bakery Story
Perestroika Products Ltd. is a family-owned business located in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. The company manufactures a variety of nutritious, all-natural authentic Russian foods.
Perestroika Products Ltd., established in 1990, is the first and only British Columbia manufacturer of Russian Foods. The family-owned business owns the warehouse and machinery at its Burnaby factory. The first product launched was the Russian Piroshki, a baked yeast-dough roll, stuffed with a variety of fillings such as potato and onion, broccoli/spinach/potato, and other savory fillings. Piroshkis are fully-baked and require only warming before serving. They are available at all Canadian Costco Stores, Superstores, Extra Foods, Save-On-Foods/Overwaitea, and Loblaws.
With the growing popularity of the piroshki, more European food products were introduced, such as our bite-size dumplings, filled with potato and onion, cheese, and meat, vegetarian Borscht soup, gourmet breads, poppy-seed strudel, and cabbage rolls. In addition to the increasing orders from the grocery store chains, our small factory-front store became extremely busy, with customers coming to purchase our freshly-made quality products from all over the Lower Mainland.
In 1992, Perestroika Products Ltd. was granted a retail food location at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) in the food building. The outlet was named Red Square, and featured the factory products. Red Square attracted huge line-ups. The PNE administration was very impressed with the high sales figures and smooth operation of the fast-food outlet, and Red Square was invited to return annually to the fair as a regular food vendor, and did so for several years.
Following the success of Red Square, Perestroika Products Ltd. established Babushka's Kitchen in 1995 at Granville Island Market as a permanent location for their European fare. Babushka's Kitchen quickly became one of the most popular food vendors at the market, operating a full kitchen and customer service counter in only 200sft of space. The Menu was expanded to include Blintz (filled crepes), Kolbassa (lean garlic sausage), home-made potato hash browns in addition to the piroshki, dumplings, cabbage rolls, and Borscht soup.
Babushka's Kitchen was sold as a franchise in August, 1998, to set a benchmark for future retail food businesses featuring the popular food products manufactured by Perestroika Products Ltd.
The Babushka's Kitchen/Red Square concept is unique in the fast-food franchise industry. Authentic Eastern European meals are labour and time intensive delicacies, normally reserved for the European family home or full-kitchen restaurant. We offer baked, stuffed yeast-dough rolls, mini-dumplings with a thin dough casing and lightly spiced fillings, gourmet multi-grain breads made without additives, hand-made fat-free borscht soup, loaded with 14 different vegetables, fresh poppy seed strudel: these kinds of ethnic specialties are simply not available at franchised "fast food" outlets. The usual "fast food" franchises bombard customers with white bread sandwiches such as beef/chicken/fish burgers, hot dogs in buns, submarines, pizzas, and traditional sandwiches. Our objective is to offer the fast-food customer a healthy and satisfying alternative to the common choices. The Red Square meals will be served quickly and efficiently from small, easy-to-set-up premises, similar to many of the well-known franchises, but the meals will be healthy, hearty and authentic; true comfort food, rather than a quick "sandwich" in a white bun.
Perestroika Products Ltd. is a family-owned and managed business. The owners are hands-on managers with many years of experience in business. The Tsemaks arrived in Canada in the late 1970's. Although they were lucky to have been allowed out of Russia at all, they were forced to abandon all of their savings and possessions before leaving and were permitted to take with them only the equivalent of $90 each travelling money and some clothing. After learning the language and working at a variety of jobs to save up some capital, the family was anxious to build a business of their own. Their first business was a small confectionery store called "Stanley Squirrel" in the Downtown Vancouver. This little business provided the opportunity for Mark Tsemak to attend UBC and later graduate from BCIT, while also working long hours at the store. Several years later, "Stanley Squirrel" was sold for an excellent profit, and the Tsemaks turned their attention to a new concept, a unique business, drawing upon all their experience and heritage, and highly conducive to expansion.
In the 1980's, Vancouver was in many ways becoming a world class city in preparation for Expo '86. The Tsemaks noticed a marked lack of ethnic food choices outside of the long-established Oriental, Italian, and Greek -style foods. But even these were not available as convenience foods to the mainstream grocery shopper. Back in Russia, hot, freshly prepared foods such as piroshki and vareniki (mini dumplings) are so popular, often attracting long line-ups at restaurants and street vendors. Products such as these are as common and well loved as burgers or hot dogs are in North America. But would these foods appeal to the public here? Encouragement came from New York, where many of the traditional Eastern European recipes, brought by the large Russian immigrant population are now high-demand items at grocery stores, restaurants and street vendors. The North American public has already welcomed these foods in the limited areas where they are available. The Tsemaks had found the basis for a new and exciting venture. There was a niche that needed to be filled.
The first challenge was to make the leap from labor-intensive homemade products, to large-scale production, manufacturing the products quickly and economically, while remaining true in taste and shape to the hand-made original. To this end, custom-made machinery was required. The next challenge was to adapt the original piroshki and vareniki recipes to a health-conscious public. Fat content was reduced and nutritional value was increased. By simply using very lean meats, and by baking, rather than deep-frying the piroshki, fat and calorie content was dramatically reduced. Non-meat versions of both products were introduced, utilizing cheese, potato, broccoli and spices to create new products for vegetarian tastes. Special attention was paid to the quality of the individual ingredients. Unbleached, untreated flour, real potatoes (not flakes), real cheddar cheese (not powder), fresh vegetables (not dehydrated) are among the many ingredients which enhance the nutritional value and flavours of the foods. The end result was a healthier version of the traditional recipes, which are economically machine-made and offered at a low price to the general food-buying public.
Another major consideration was convenience. Today's consumers, while they are health-conscious, are looking for foods that require little time and effort. All of the company's products sold in stores are ready to serve in minutes. The piroshki are fully cooked and require only warming in the microwave, while the dumplings need only five minutes of boiling. They are also available in a variety of sizes in attractive packaging (from a family pack to individual portions).
Mark Tsemak began marketing the products to the local food-store chains. The reaction to the products from the purchasing departments was very positive. They were impressed with the taste, quality and prices of the products and it was not long before Perestroika Products Ltd. was shipping to Price Costco, Save-On-Foods and Overwaitea Foods, The Real Canadian Superstore, and Loblaws. With a choice of package sizes and "heat and eat" healthy food convenience, Perestroika Products Ltd. has addressed the desires of the consumer who has responded by making the products a popular staple in many Canadian grocery stores.
As the manufacturing and wholesale side of the business continues to gain momentum, there is also a strong demand for the foods in a ready to eat format, as served from a "fast food" type of premises. The success of the factory store, Red Square at the PNE, and Babushka's Kitchen at Granville Island Market have indicated that there is a new niche in the public marketplace: a fast-food outlet serving the company's factory-made products, including piroshki, dumplings, vegetarian borscht soup, cabbage rolls, gourmet breads and strudels. These products have been enthusiastically accepted by consumers all across Canada, and continue to gain popularity each year. Now is the time to provide the consumer with a refreshing new choice in convenience foods.
The Tsemak family continues to manage the business in its entirety and are committed to expanding their current successes by opening Red Square fast food outlets in well-chosen locations throughout Canada. Their previous experience and particularly the excellent performances of Babushka's Kitchen, the factory store and Red Square at the exhibition have strongly indicated that an exciting opportunity exists to provide an entirely new fast food option to Canadians. The Tsemaks' are uniquely qualified to manage a network of Red Square franchises as they have overseen every detail of the business since its inception. From the recipes to the manufacturing and marketing of the products, to the securing of retail locations and managing the staff, the Tsemaks have maintained the highest level of excellence and integrity in all aspects of company growth