Dear Bon Ton Bakery: Why Are There Haunted Dolls in Your Bakery Window?

If you've passed Bon Ton Bakery, you've surely noticed the chilling vintage dolls in the window. Here's everything you need to know about the creepiest Christmas display in town.

It’s that special time of year: carollers are carolling, turtle doves are flying off the shelves, and Kitsilano’s historic Bon Ton Pastry and Confectionary is filling its windows with vintage toys that will haunt your dreams.

The iconic Vancouver bakery has been in business since 1926 for a reason: these dudes know their way around a buttercream. Their Diplomat cake alone lures pastry-heads in from all corners of the lower mainland. The original shop occupied the space that’s currently the Commodore Ballroom, but today, the thrillingly calorific legacy lives on in a charming shop on West Broadway. Year ’round, flaky pastries and delicate petit fours beckon from behind the storefront windows, but it’s not their cakes and cookies that stop me in my tracks when I’m strolling through the ’hood: it’s the cross-eyed jack-in-the box that sits menacingly beside them.

skiing doll

While vintage toys and trinkets rotate through the window displays with the seasons, Christmas is really where the Bon Ton merchandisers shine. After all, what says “happy holidays” quite like a balding wooden doll on a rickety set of skis, or a 90-year-old wax Santa figurine with melted eyes?

It may be an unusual aesthetic, but it’s definitely an effective one. It inspired me to reach out with a few questions (mainly “Why?”), which the kind and patient Bon Ton social media manager Amy Dhamrait was happy to oblige. Presenting my holiday gift to you: everything you wanted to know about the haunted-toy bakery window display but were afraid to ask (for haunting reasons).

jack in the box doll

A Hard-Hitting Q&A with Bon Ton Bakery

VanMag: The toys and decorations in the windows look incredibly vintage. Just how old are they, and where do they come from?

Amy Dhamrait: The decorations are found in various thrift/vintage stores in the Lower Mainland. They are approximately from the 1950s to 1970s.

VM: Does the Bon Ton team realize that the decorations can be a little bit creepy or am I breaking this news?

AD: Haha! Yes, the owner 100% realizes that the decorations are a bit creepy in nature. Most vintage decorations have an element of creepiness. We want Bon Ton to still have that old-school feel of being a classic Italian/French bakery. The decor emphasizes this and adds a vintage feel.

the window

VM: Who decorates the windows? Do they have full autonomy over which toys and decorations to use, or is it dictated by the big boss? Do you have a schedule for changing over the display, or is it just whenever you feel like it?

AD: The owner of Bon Ton has full decorative autonomy and expression. She decorates the window displays throughout various seasons and given holidays.

VM: Are new pieces of decor ever introduced, or has the Bon Ton team been pulling from the same selection for years?

AD: New decorations are introduced each year. However, there have been various Bon Ton mementos (like cake displays and old machinery), that have been used for decorative expression for years, which long-time guests have noticed and admired.

screenshots from instagram
A compilation of some of my more biting Instagram Stories from last year’s display. Zing city!

VM: How old are the wedding cakes that are in the window? 

AD: The wedding cakes on display were created by the original pastry chefs, approximately 50 to 60 years ago. They were examples of various types of wedding cakes that could be created by the pastry chefs at that time.

VM: Who owns Bon Ton’s today? Is it still run by the original family?

AD: There are now new owners of Bon Ton, who have been going to Bon Ton for over 30 years. They would grab their Christmas, Easter and Birthday celebration cakes and pastries here, and when they took over the bakery, they didn’t want to change anything. The new owners actually went in absolutely blind to operating a bakery, but with pure dedication and passion, they were able to manage and preserve each and every recipe that was originally created by Bon Ton Pastry and Confectionary pastry chefs.

VM: Am I the only one who ever notices or comments on the display or is this something other people comment on?

AD: Guests love the decor each season. So many people who come in comment how they love the vintage decor and make comments about how Bon Ton is back to its original roots of when it first opened in downtown Vancouver.