A member of Haliburton ‘royalty’, Diana Gomes is back in business after opening a new bakery on the ground floor of Stedmans Mall.

It’s been an emotional couple of months for Gomes, who opened The Portuguese Princess Bakery April 24. Opening the business with her son, Travis Carroll, Gomes told The Highlander this was the culmination of three decades of hard work, determination, and big dreams.

“It’s been a long journey getting here, but I wouldn’t change it for the world,” said Gomes, a former nurse and one-time owner of the Head Lake Grill, which closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When a door gets closed, another window of opportunity opens. This is my amazing, wonderful opportunity.”

Baking is in Gomes’ blood, a passion since she was a young child when she used to watch her father, Francisco, in the kitchen of his family restaurant in the city.

“I come from a long line of cooks and chefs who made food for kings and queens in Portugal. I’m a first generation Canadian, but the Portuguese heritage was instilled in me very deeply,” Gomes said. “I learned a lot of these skills from my dad. I watched him make so many things from so little. It was like he was an artist… he’s definitely the inspiration behind all of this.”

Gomes has breathed new life into the unit located underneath Glecoff’s Family Store. The open concept space features an industrial fridge, prep area, and commercial baking oven. Customer facing, there’s a cooling counter that features a generous array of confectionery – Portuguese inspired puff pastries like pasteis de nata and pasteis de tentugal, and other favourites such as coconut tarts, lemon meringue, and chocolate puffs.

There are warm treats too – sausage rolls, mini quiches, pastries infused with beef and cheddar, or salmon.

“There’s almost always something new for customers to try. I really enjoy looking at a bunch of ingredients and making something out of nothing,” Gomes said. “The feedback has been amazing so far. I’ve loved getting to know so many new people, and seeing repeat customers come through the door. I always do whatever I can to make sure they leave with a smile on their face.”

A key feature for Gomes is the pricing. She said all items are available for between $2 and $10. She’s keen to ensure nobody is priced out of visiting her bakery.

“I’m doing what I can to try and fill a gap in this town and be here for the community. The first step in doing that is making sure anyone can afford to come in and buy something,” she said.

Gomes said she hopes the space will become a gathering spot for locals, particularly once she’s set up tables and chairs for dining in. That should help bring more eyes to what she’s calling her artist corner – featuring works from various local makers. Featured now is photographer June Krisko and Tracy Schell of Native Soul Creations. 

The bakery is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., though Gomes noted the hours will change after the busy summer season. For now, she’s just going to enjoy the ride.

“This is a dream come true for me. My heart and my soul are in this place. Food is my love language. I do this for the smiles and for the connections,” Gomes said. “I’m really excited about what this place can be for the people of this community.”