A black car with tinted windows pulled up in front of the small bakery. It was an hour to closing time and Gerry Lonergan, owner of East Coast Bakery, squinted his eyes ever so slightly to see if it was the man himself.
In seconds, the black door opened and a little old lady scampered out of the car, making her way down the street.
On Monday, Jan. 16, Lonergan was hoping to have a special guest in his sweetly-scented bakery: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The dream began when Lonergan received a Christmas card from the prime minister.
“It’s not personalized to me,” said Lonergan. “It’s from his office and it’s sort of generic, but it’s still a great honour; it’s still addressed to me and the shop.”
The card appeared completely out of the blue, but Lonergan is pretty certain Joachim Stroink, Liberal MLA for Halifax-Chebucto, had something to do with the surprise. They’re friends and business neighbours on Quinpool Road.
Lonergan’s East Coast Bakery specializes in local and kosher bagels. He says bagels are his passion. While speaking to The Signal, he swiped through photos of bagels on his phone — pointing to pictures of the first batch ever created in the bakery, of the bagels he’s seen in Montreal, and even of bagels he’s seen in hospitals.
His enthusiasm speaks through his food.
New and old customers strolled in and out of the bakery regularly on Monday. People of all ages were buying bagels and loaves of challah bread, a fluffy white bread lightly sweetened with honey. Staff and countless people who entered the bakery said it makes excellent French toast.
East Coast Bakery opened in May 2016. While it’s only been open for eight months, it’s gained a reputation throughout the city. It now sells baked goods to many restaurants and cafés in town, including The Nook on Gottingen, Riot Snack Bar and Dilly Dally Coffee Cafe on Quinpool.
Lonergan’s business also placed in The Coast’s Best of Halifax 2016 awards. The bakery received bronze for best new business under shopping and services. The sticker can be found beside the bakery’s front door.
Inside the tiny shop, the right wall is painted in light and dark blues. The left wall has a row of pictures of famous locals who’ve entered the bakery. But in the middle, there’s a gap.
This gap is where Lonergan is planning on hanging his photos with Trudeau and Rick Mercer if they ever come to visit him.
Whispers filled the tiny bakery sporadically throughout the day. Lonergan, workers and even some customers who knew about the card questioned if Trudeau would make an appearance.
Lonergan was hopeful, but knew nothing was set in stone. He was a little skeptical as Trudeau was attending a meeting in Dartmouth.
“Joachim … felt he wasn’t going to come visit the Halifax side because his schedule is very tightly booked,” said Lonergan. “These guys count by the minute, so they just had a feeling he wasn’t going to be here. I didn’t know what to expect.”
This didn’t mean Lonergan was going to give up without a fight. If Trudeau wasn’t coming to his bagels, he would try to send his bagels to Trudeau.
Lonergan called Stroink to ask if he could bring Trudeau some bagels and challah bread. That plan, too, was thwarted. Stroink told Lonergan he was required to take a different entryway than the prime minister at the town hall meeting.
Trudeau never did come by the bagel shop. However, he did stop at Two If By Sea in Dartmouth and Java Blend Coffee Roasters in Halifax.
According to a staff member at Java Blend, Trudeau stopped at the café around 3:45 p.m. on Monday. East Coast Bakery closes at 2 p.m.
“I’m hearing about it over and over and over again on the radio,” said Lonergan to The Signal on Tuesday. “I was like, ‘Wow, that could have been me,’ you know?”
While Lonergan would have loved to meet Trudeau, he stressed there was no heavy expectation of him to drop by the shop.
“We’ve had so many other influential people coming (in),” said Lonergan. “I always hoped Trudeau would come … but it’s just wishful thinking at the same time.”
Justin Trudeau has since left Halifax to continue his series of local discussions across the country. On Tuesday, Jan. 17, he visited three towns in New Brunswick and Sherbrooke, Que. On Jan. 18, he is expected to continue his visit to Sherbrooke with media availabilities and a conversation at a university Tim Horton’s.
Meanwhile, Lonergan isn’t giving up hope; he’s keeping the large space in his row of photos for Trudeau and Mercer. Until that day comes, he’ll keep doing what he loves: making authentic east coast bagels.