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The Magic of The Big Buns Club

Cinnamon buns baked in the GREAT JONES Little Hottie square pan

When Eli Clark began making cinnamon buns for his friends and family in 2020, he thought he'd have some fun and create the branding to go with it too. He never thought of turning it into a business until a local publication picked it up and started promoting it. From there, Eli, together with his wife and partner Maria Galindo, made the decision to turn the friends-and-family project into a full-fledged business. We sat down with them to talk about their branding, creative process, and what fans can look forward to next!

L: frozen pack of specialty cinnamon buns in front of the GREAT JONES Little Hottie square pan; R: husband and wife team Eli Clark and Maria Galindo of The Big Buns Club at a picnic table

We really love your nod to the 1950s, the retro aesthetics in your branding. We’re seeing that nostalgia coming back too in fashion, beauty, and cinema. What drew you to this aesthetic?

Eli: I feel like early on the branding just came to us because growing up I watched a lot of cartoons, like retro cartoons, and I kind of saw that trend coming up in food. I really wanted to go in that direction.
Maria: It fits with the whole theme of the brand too. I think we like to keep it playful, fun, and it fits our vibe too. So it reflects.

Who designs your merch?

Eli: We came up with the general ideation of the branding and such, but we had two local designers help us, Ryan Beale and Ryan Coulson. I’m pretty sure they work with a lot of local brands. Like The Matcha Way, Ryan Coulson did their logo. Good to work with someone local.

In your Calgary Guardian interview, you mention your head baker Angel Ibarria. Can you tell us more about that relationship and the creative process behind each seasonal offering?

Eli: We brought him on after we figured out we weren’t really bakers. [Maria and Eli laugh] We looked for bakers in the city, put out a listing, and was connected with Angel, who immigrated from Mexico not too long ago. He’s been able to help us take on our recipes to the next level.
Maria: And he has a background as a chocolatier. So I think that’s really helpful because he has a very good focus on details, the small little things. Since our buns are specialty handmade, I think decoration’s a key part in it. And he has the eye for it.

With the actual flavours and ingredients of the seasonal offerings, what does that look like in the brainstorming process? Are you drawing from your own childhood or what you’re seeing in the current market?

Maria: Since our brand is so nostalgic we draw a lot of parts from our own childhood, especially Eli’s. Like the Dunkaroo Bun–straight from his childhood. We also come up with the flavours by paying attention to seasonal ingredients as well as listening to our audience. For the summer we like to keep it fresh and fruity so we see what’s in season. And I think our clients are very vocal about what they like. They’re really big fans of some flavours and they do not shy away from letting us know, even in person or through our Instagram.

Since we are the Big Buns Club a big part of it is like having that club aspect, and making things in rotation, changing, having drops, having things limited, and it allows our customers to keep coming back, keeping in touch with the flavours of the month. It keeps things fun and fresh.

What’s the weirdest flavour request you ever got?

Maria: I think for me it was the Nanaimo Bar. I’ve had it before, I know it’s like a super Canadian thing, and I’m not from Canada so I’ve only had it a handful of times. I have to be honest, it’s not one of my favourites because it’s such a crazy mixture. It would be cool to conceptualise that into a bun, but I don’t know if it would work for a cinnamon bun. But never say never.
Eli: I would say…when people ask for raisins in their buns. [Maria and Eli laugh]

So you’re not a fan of raisins.

Eli: I know a lot of older people love having raisins in their cinnamon buns, but I just, I don’t really like raisins at all.

So we’re never gonna see a raisin–

Eli: Maybe. Maybe one day. Just to make a small group happy.

L: pulling apart a cinnamon bun from the GREAT JONES Little Hottie square pan; R: the back side of the Big Buns Club t-shirt, worn by co-founder Eli Clark

We’ve heard a lot about you drawing inspiration from Eli’s childhood. [to Maria] Do you think we can see some inspiration from your childhood? What are some of the flavours or dishes that might translate well?

Maria: Me and Angel were really excited about the Churro Bun because I feel like that’s a good mix of both of our cultures, him being from Mexico and me from Brazil. It has that classic cinnamon and brown sugar taste but also has dulce de leche, which me and him love so much. So that was fun to have around. That was one of my favourite flavours for a long time.

But I think in the future, yeah, there are some very iconic Brazilian sweets and candies that I love having. There’s this chocolate fudge that’s called brigadeiro from Brazil. I don’t know if that would be a little bit too rich for a cinnamon bun, but having that in some capacity would be pretty cool.

Currently your buns are sold at Lukes, Blush Lane, and now Crossroads. Where do you see yourselves popping up next?

Eli: Our overall plan is to one day have our own storefront, just so we can fully encapsulate our brand and have the physical space where everyone could just come in and be part of our club. We enjoy doing popups, we love collaborating with local companies. In the past we’ve collaborated with local stores such as Plant, Made By Marcus, Una Pizza, Socality House, and Drizzle Honey.
Maria: Even Ollie Quinn. As long as you’re local, it doesn’t even have to be food-centred or in that industry. I think we just really flock to locals here.

Eli Clark and Maria Galindo, the husband-and-wife team behind The Big Buns Club, pose with their specialty cinnamon buns in the GREAT JONES Little Hottie square pan

Working with your spouse, what are some of the things you do to maintain a healthy balance of work and life?

Maria: Like, we don’t. [laughs]
Eli: It’s an ongoing thing trying to balance our working relationship with our actual relationship just because we talk about it all the time and always come up with ideas. Even when we’re at home or in bed.
Maria: I feel like in today’s day and age, that “balance” question is like an enigma. I feel like no one really has the answer to it. And we for sure don’t. We just try our best to handle it. But I think when it comes down to it, we are both very creative and even when we don’t want to talk about work, we still find ourselves talking about it.
Eli: I think it’s about reading each other’s mood as well, seeing if it’s a good time to just chill out and not talk about work.

If you could make up a title or position that best suits Eli, what would it be?

Maria: He’s the Big Chief. Big Bun Chief Officer.
Eli: CBO. Chief Bun Officer.
Maria: Chief Bun Officer. The guy with the biggest buns.

If you could make up a title or position for Maria, what would it be?

Eli: Marketing genius. Maria basically runs our Instagram and finds all those trends that kind of help us stay relevant and grow our community. So I think that’s like her main strength, expanding our brand. I’d say a good name would be Brand Strategist. Something like that? Chief Bun Strategist.

Stay tuned next Friday as we announce a sweet giveaway with The Big Buns Club. If you can't wait, visit their website or find them at Crossroads Market every weekend from 9 AM to 5 PM!

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