Then & Now Montreal – Dent Harrison and the POM Bakery
by Dick Nieuwendyk – Montreal Times
One of Westmount’s first major industrial manufacturing companies was the POM Bakery. Founders
Dent Harrison and Thomas Allat, started their business in a small house in Pointe St. Charles in 1889 with a three jet gas-powered hot plate and Harrison’s Uncle Hartley’s crumpet recipe. The two men baked by night and went door-to-door selling crumpets by day.
They found their customer base among Irish and English immigrant workers who were employed by the Grand Trunk Railway in Pointe St. Charles. Within a year Harrison and Allat were able to open a small bakery just a few doors down from James A. Ogilvy’s first department store on St. Antoine Street.
In 1894, Dent married Ellen Whiley from Ontario and rented his own space at Dunlop Place, between Greene and Wood Avenues. Looking to expand business, Harrison, always looking for new ways to improve his bread making, invented Canada’s first mechanical dough mixer in 1898.
In 1909 he had the world’s first traveling oven installed, and in it’s first night, this white-enameled brick six-feet wide by 50-feet long oven produced 3,300 loaves of bread.
By 1916 Harrison and Allat had established Westmount’s largest manufacturing business, now called The Marvel Bakery. In 1922 his two oldest sons, Will and Gordon, joined the business, which then became Dent Harrison and Sons Ltd.
These were the early days of horse drawn delivery bread wagons and home delivery was made by 165 horses owned by the family. In 1925, a change in ownership took place. The family decided to sell the Bakery to US Continental Baking because Dent was suffering from ill health.
His two sons, Will and Gordon, signed a five-year contract to work for the new company, but when the contract ended in 1930, they, along with their father and brother Dent Jr. bought the corner lot at St. Catherine and the Glen and opened the POM (Pride of Montreal) Bakery. They replaced the old horse drawn carts with two-toned green Ford delivery trucks and by the end of their first year they had attained their goal of 52 routes in 52 weeks.
The POM trucks were 1930 Fords with a big custom wooden body. They permitted the driver to stand up while driving, if he wanted. This allowed for quick exits to run up to customers’ houses. Home delivery ended in the 1970s, and the bakery became wholesale.
Dent Harrison died in 1936, and is interred in the Mount Royal Cemetery. He lived with his family in Westmount for 45 years. During that time he was a four-term City Council member from 1927 through 1935, as well as an active supporter of the YMCA, the Rotary Club and Dominion Douglas Church.
By 1986 POM had outgrown its building at Ste Catherine and the Glen and moved production to Viau Street, across from the Olympic Stadium in Montreal’s east-end. The Harrisons sold the property for $2.4 million to developers who turned the building into the luxury condos that stand there today.
The building is located at 4700 Ste Catherine & Lansdowne in Montreal.