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A staff member lays out raw rolls at Ace Bakery on baking sheets before the rolls are sent for baking and bagged for delivery to customers.

DEBORAH BAIC/Deborah Baic, Deborah Baic Photography, 2003

When Ace Bakery was founded in Toronto in 1993 by Martin Connell and Linda Haynes, they made the bread by hand.

The company was born out of Mr. Connell's habit of spending weekend mornings at the couple's country house near Caledon, Ont., baking bread with his young daughter. It soon turned into a hobby, then a passion, with Mr. Connell striving to create the perfect baguette.

The couple built a small bakehouse on the property and, after visiting bakeries in North America and Europe, started to think about launching their own bread-baking business.

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This week, George Weston Ltd. paid $110 million to purchase the popular manufacturer and supplier of artisan and European-style breads.

Weston, which controls the Loblaws grocery chain and owns Weston Foods, said Ace Bakery products will complement its own brands. "I would like to welcome the Ace Bakery employees into the Weston group," said W. Galen Weston, chairman and president of George Weston.

Mr. Connell and Ms. Haynes first opened a small bakery in 1993, on the western edge of downtown Toronto, using about $250,000 of their own money. The duo initially wanted to raise funds for Calmeadow, their microlending charity. But Ace was a smash hit with Toronto gourmands and, four years later, they relocated to a 23,000-square-foot facility (which later doubled in size) in north Toronto.

Ms. Haynes, a former television producer, focused on product development and marketing while Mr. Connell oversaw operations. Within a decade, Ace's breads were being sold in grocery chains such as Loblaws in Canada and A&P in the United States, served in many of Toronto's best restaurants, and shipped partially frozen to luxury resorts in the Bahamas and elsewhere.

It's the second major bakery acquisition for Weston in recent months, following its purchase of Keystone Bakery for $185 million (U.S.).

Keystone has three operating businesses - Freed's Bakery of Manchester, N.H., a baker of frozen, fully finished iced cupcakes; Granny's Kitchens of Frankfort, N.Y., a supplier of pre-fried and thaw-and-sell doughnuts; and Heartland Baking of DuQuoin, Ill., a specialty supplier of thaw-and-serve cookies.

With files from The Globe and Mail archives.

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