Sweet­en­ing the lives of hos­pi­tal pa­tients

GRA­HAM ROCK­ING­HAM

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - GRA­HAM ROCK­ING­HAM

Giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity with freshly-baked cheer

Joanne Em­ber­son learned at an early age how a lit­tle sweet­ness can put a smile on the face of a hos­pi­tal pa­tient. As a teenager she would bring freshly­baked treats to cheer up her grand­mother in hos­pi­tal.

Be­fore Em­ber­son’s grand­mother died at 94, she made her prom­ise to one day open a pas­try shop so that other peo­ple could en­joy her bak­ing.

In De­cem­ber, af­ter go­ing to school in Sud­bury to be­come a cer­ti­fied pas­try chef, Em­ber­son ful­filled her prom­ise, open­ing a tiny bake shop on Con­ces­sion Street a cou­ple blocks east of the Ju­ravin­ski Hos­pi­tal, in the same neigh­bour­hood her grand­mother once lived.

Em­ber­son called the lit­tle shop “Crum­buns.” It was the en­dear­ing nick­name her grand­fa­ther gave to Granny Anne. There’s a framed heartshaped greet­ing card hang­ing on the bake shop’s wall, writ­ten grand­fa­ther to grand­mother, ad­dressed to “My Crum­bun.”

“Bak­ing has al­ways been in our fam­ily,” Em­ber­son says. “Be­tween my mom, and my grand­mother, I’ve al­ways baked. My grand­mother was al­ways known for her but­ter tarts, cheese­cakes and short­bread.”

It wasn’t enough for Em­ber­son, a 25year-old sin­gle mother liv­ing in Dun­das, just to ful­fil her prom­ise. She wanted to give some­thing back to the com­mu­nity.

A cousin, Carter Whip­ple-But­ton, died in 2012 at McMaster Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal of leukemia shortly be­fore he reached his first birth­day. From all re­ports, lit­tle Carter was as cute as his name.

An­other cousin and child­hood play­mate, Nathaniel Ham­mond, died at the age of 29 at Ju­ravin­ski af­ter be­ing first di­ag­nosed with can­cer at the age of 11 months.

Em­ber­son had watched can­cer rav­age two close mem­bers of her fam­ily at young ages. She saw how hos­pi­tal staff and other mem­bers of the com­mu­nity had worked so hard and good-na­turedly to help them in their dev­as­tat­ing ill­nesses.

So Em­ber­son de­cided to ded­i­cate two of her pas­try cre­ations to the mem­ory of her cousins, with pro­ceeds of their sales go­ing to two lo­cal hos­pi­tals.

There’s melt-in-your mouth mini-short bread cook­ies in the shape of but­tons. She calls them “Carter’s But­tons.” They sell for 50 cents with all pro­ceeds go­ing to McMaster Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Foun­da­tion.

“He was such a lit­tle fighter, that one,” Em­ber­son says of But­tons.

And there’s the candy-filled wedges called “Nate’s Pop Tarts.” Cousin Nathaniel had a sweet tooth and al­ways had his pock­ets filled with can­dies. You’ll find his favourites cooked into the dough. “Nate’s Pop Tarts” sell for $2.75 a slice or $28 for an en­tire pie with pro­ceeds to the Ju­ravin­ski Hos­pi­tal and Can­cer Cen­tre Foun­da­tion.

“It’s like a gi­ant cookie filled with dif­fer­ent things — Kit Kats, M & Ms, ev­ery type of thing that Nate liked,” Em­ber­son says. “It re­minds me of him, be­cause it’s just filled with candy. He would have thought it the neat­est thing.”

Em­ber­son has also cre­ated a “#crum­bun­spay­it­for­ward” wall where cus­tomers can have their pic­tures taken and posted on Face­book af­ter buy­ing the tasty treats.

You may think it a clever way of mar­ket­ing a new busi­ness. It wasn’t the own­ers of Crum­buns who reached out for pub­lic­ity. It was cus­tomer Jessica Comp­ton.

She dis­cov­ered Crum­buns in Jan­uary, while re­cov­er­ing from her­nia surgery. She’d drop in for cof­fee and some com­pany al­most ev­ery day, learn­ing the sto­ries about Granny Anne, Nate and Carter.

On the day The Spec dropped by, the shop was packed. Comp­ton had in­vited some mu­si­cian friends, in­clud­ing lo­cal singer-song­writ­ers Robin Bene­dict and Bren­nagh Burns, to en­ter­tain cus­tomers. It was her way of “pay­ing it for­ward.”

“Af­ter surgery, I ran into ev­ery com­pli­ca­tion you could think of. I ended up com­ing here with a book,” says Comp­ton, 40, an ed­u­ca­tional as­sis­tant on leave from Prince of Wales school. “They treated me well. I hung up my jacket and it felt like home. This bak­ery kind of saved me.”

That makes Em­ber­son smile: “That’s the goal. The fact she can come in and feel at home, like you’re go­ing to Granny’s, feel com­fort­able.”

Em­ber­son opened Crum­buns with the help of fam­ily friend John McQuar­rie. With more than 20-years ex­pe­ri­ence as an ac­coun­tant in the food in­dus­try, he put up the fi­nanc­ing to open Crum­buns and help Em­ber­son with her plan to pay-it-for­ward to the com­mu­nity and her granny.

McQuar­rie is the tit­u­lar owner of Crum­buns, but says the ul­ti­mate goal is to hand it over, at least in part, to Em­ber­son.

“I didn’t have the vi­sion, she did,” McQuar­rie, 58, says of Em­ber­son. “She wakes up and can’t wait to get here,” I can’t re­mem­ber ever do­ing that in 25 years of be­ing an ac­coun­tant.”

PHO­TOS BY BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

John McQuar­rie and Joanne Em­ber­son’s new bak­ery and cof­fee shop on Con­ces­sion Street, Crum­buns, is serv­ing up treats and giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity at the same time.

Jessica Comp­ton is a reg­u­lar at the shop, and cred­its it with her re­cov­ery.

Small cook­ies, known as ‘Carter’s but­tons’ are named in mem­ory of Joanne Em­ber­son’s cousin Carter who passed away at just 11 months in 2012.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Crum­buns opened on Con­ces­sion in Em­ber­son’s grand­mother’s old neigh­bour­hood.

Th­ese candy-filled wedges — ‘Nate’s Pop Tarts’ — are in hon­our of Joanne Em­ber­son’s cousin Nathaniel, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 29.

FAM­ILY PHOTO

Crum­buns makes ‘Carter’s But­tons’ in mem­ory of cute-as-a-but­ton Carter Whip­ple-But­ton, who died at 11 months.

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