Henry’s Tempeh can trace it’s roots all the way to Salt Spring Island, one of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia between mainland British Columbia, Canada and Vancouver Island. Of course, Tempeh comes from a much farther away place, the beautiful country of Indonesia, where one of our owners spent 3 years working and becoming fluent in Bahasa Indonesia. We’ll get back to that bit later though.
Back to Salt Spring Island for now, which you can say is a bit of an unlikely place to start our story. Back in those days, Henry, the original founder of Henry’s Tempeh (as you might have guessed!), was intrigued enough by his daughters idea to help start a tempeh company to serve the island and beyond. After traveling across this great land with a truck and trailer full of equipment, the operation was brought to fermentation (ha!). Thus, Salt Spring Tempeh was born, a true family business! Yes, it was on an island, but logistical problems could be solved later, for the time being the place was simply gorgeous and a perfect place to make tempeh. With things running smoothly and his daughter in control, Henry decided it was time to be on the move again.
Having returned to Kitchener-Waterloo, Henry decided he would finally make one of his dreams come true; to run a business all by himself! It was ambitious. And at times, perhaps rambunctious! But most of all, it turned out to be delicious! Henry quickly began making tempeh in Kitchener-Waterloo, while promoting the product as much as he could by demonstrating to audiences how to cook and prepare the products. His charm and personality helped win many over to the Henry’s Tempeh brand, while the non-bitter taste and high quality of the well-crafted products sealed the deal. Loyal customers to this day still refer to anyone and everyone answering emails or phone calls at the company, as “Henry.” It’s become a bit of a tradition for The Henry’s Tempeh Team to never correct someone when this happens, and it always puts a smile on our faces.
Let’s take you back to Indonesia now. Paul (one of the current owners) had returned from spending a total of 3 years on Java Island, a place where tempeh became part of his daily diet. He became fluent in the language, and worked in aid relief, having himself experienced a few earthquakes while there. Now how Paul stumbled on a job posting for a tempeh company, back in his home town, is still an incredible coincidence we talk about often. It was perhaps simply meant to be. After writing one heck of a cover letter explaining his experience in Indonesian culture, Henry just couldn’t say no to hiring him. Paul slowly mastered the art of tempeh making, guided by long time employee Begzada, whom still works for the company, making her perhaps North America’s longest running tempeh maker. She informally also serves as the company historian, having watched the business grow and change throughout the years.
Well, after a few years of making tempeh, Paul began to really see the potential of this healthy and amazing super-food. But his heart yearned for one more big adventure before considering asking Henry about his plans for the future, and proposing that he was interested in coming on board as an owner. Henry was in a similar predicament. He also yearned for something, to finally spend more time with his family and travel the world after years and years of hard work. And so one day (and this has been romanticized here for your entertainment), as Paul was walking from the warehouse where he had just finished manually screening soybeans (yes, we used to do it that way!), and Henry having just rolled up to the shop on his super cool motorcycle after making a delivery , a discussion on the future of business was had.
And so it was agreed the business would be sold to Paul, on the condition that he would first be able to spend 56 days riding his bicycle across Canada. The only problem was to find somebody to help make tempeh while he was away. Paul’s old friend Phil, whom had visited him for a month in Indonesia, stepped in. He ended up loving making tempeh so much that he stayed with the company as Paul took over from Henry. During that same time, another old and very handy friend of Paul’s, Jason, came on board to help maintain and upgrade all of the equipment, in order to bring the operation to the next level. The demand for Tempeh was steadily growing, and so keeping up with demand was a real (good) problem!
With the increasing amount of work to be done, and the many ideas and dreams shared among the 3 of them, it was decided that Jason and Phil would join Paul as partners in the business. At that time, the decision was also made to move from their beloved location at 237 Arnold Street Kitchener, to a much bigger facility in Kitchener’s Huron Business District. Begzada, Paul and Phil worked hard making tempeh every day, while Jason began building the company a new food processing facility, doing it almost all from scratch!
As Paul and Phil would finish production each day they would travel across town to the new facility to lend Jason a hand. It was a lot of work, but eventually, the new facility was launched in October of 2016. Soon after, in January 2017, the business received HACCP certification.
In August of 2020, Paul left the business to pursue other adventures, leaving Jason, Phil, and their growing team of 10 employees (and counting!) to continue on with the company. A packaging rebrand soon followed, along with yet another plant expansion, making for an exciting time for the company heading into 2021, and approaching its 20th year anniversary in 2022.
On April 19th, 2021, the company became a Certified Living Wage employer at the Champion Level.