“In the beginning we did toy around with the idea of having a company called Squares where we’d do different kinds of squares, but it all kept coming back to the lemon square—the original,” says Dan Spratling, co-owner of The Lemon Square, a Vancouver-based company that specializes in the classic treat. “I’m very passionate about businesses that do one thing, like ramen shops that just have ramen or a coffee company that just makes an amazing espresso,” he continues. “So we love the idea of just having one product.” Co-owner Wally Mitchell agrees: “We wanted to keep it very simple.”
So far, simple seems to be working. A year and a half ago, they decided to take their favourite recipe to the next level by entering the Vancouver Baker’s Market. “We used to just take the squares to family events and friends’ places for holidays and everyone absolutely loved it,” says Mitchell. “But then we thought, ‘Why don’t we just take a few down to the market and sell a few, see how it goes?’” It went very well: the squares were nearly sold out by the end of the night. Since then, the two have encountered so much demand for these delicious yellow treats that they have had to expand beyond their one-bedroom apartment and into a commercial kitchen. The squares can be found all over Vancouver in cafés and farmers’ markets, identifiable for their classic brown paper box and yellow string packaging.
Simple means ingredients, too. Spratling and Mitchell’s product is a twist on an old recipe from Spratling’s family. “We use natural lemons; we use the zest as well as the juice. And it’s a two-layer square rather than a square with the curd baked through,” he says. “There are only six ingredients and they’re all natural.” Spratling, who grew up in the Australian hospitality industry, is a certified Red Seal Chef. Before he started baking full-time, he worked in several Vancouver-based kitchens and ran the cafeteria at a prominent private school. Both Mitchell and Spratling grew up on dairy farms and knew that food was their passion from a young age.
For now, it’s no surprise that the duo has plans to expand The Lemon Square’s presence beyond Vancouver’s café scene and into the local supermarkets. The only thing standing in their way is another beloved baked good. “To narrow down one competing product would be hard… but everyone loves a chocolate chip cookie,” says Mitchell. “Yes, let’s blame the cookie!” interjects Spratling. But joke’s on the cookie: this isn’t just any lemon square.
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