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St. Albert bakeries reflect on how pandemic changed business

Every bakery raved about the support they received from the community and attributed their success during the pandemic to loyal customers. 
1808 bakeries ph CC
Co-owner Fadoua Derbel stands in front of the St. Albert location of Macarons and Goodies in downtown St. Albert on August 10, 2021. PRESTON HODGKINSON/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert is filled with locally-owned bakeries who have had to pivot in interesting ways to survive the pandemic.

At Macarons and Goodies, in the heart of downtown, owners Akram Hasni and Fadoua Derbe discovered that while the pandemic shut down in-person catering, it helped them realize the importance of delivering their french bakery food in different ways.

“[The pandemic] has given us a lot of new approaches to how we do business. I believe everybody has to believe in having strong online ordering and delivery if possible,” said Hasni. “A lot of people will be interested in your product, but sometimes everybody is busy, and having a delivery service is great. Every company has to focus on offering services to their customers in different ways.” 

The husband-and-wife duo, who are from Dubai, studied in France and achieved their dream of opening a french bakery here in Canada. 

They have two locations, one here in St. Albert and another in Edmonton, and hope to expand in the future.

Confections, a small dessert bar on Perron Street, has seen the size of their orders shift during the pandemic. They've been fulfilling more small orders over the past year due to large gatherings being put on hold. 

Owner Brittany Allen said that has changed some of the services they offer. 

“During the pandemic, there were a lot of really small but fancy cakes because people couldn’t host parties, so they were doing a little more intense cake than they would typically do,” said Allen. “Now that everything has opened up, it’s like everyone wants to be with their friends, so it has gone from one extreme to the other.” 

This is by no means a complaint. She smiled as patrons enjoyed her desserts while chatting with friends.

Whisk Dessert Co. hasn’t seen customers in a few months. Not because the pandemic brought sales to a standstill, but because they have been closed while working on some big changes. 

Whisk has moved to a new location in Grandin Park Plaza, and has re-branded as Whisk Bakeshop and Coffeehouse. They opened on Aug. 17 and are offering an array of new services. They brought in a shiny new espresso machine from Italy and are now featuring a dine-in experience with a dog-friendly patio, to boot.

Owner Jennifer Gray said that while they are excited to be opening, moving during a pandemic carried its own set of troubles. 

“To be honest, trying to open a shop in the middle of a pandemic was pretty terrifying,” said Gray. “We’ve had such an incredible response from our customers that acted as a catalyst for us to keep going, so we are looking forward to having a place where people can come and actually sit down.” 

Every bakery raved about the support they received from the community and attributed their success during the pandemic to loyal customers. 

Perhaps the best example of this gratitude was at Grandin Bakery, St. Albert's oldest-running bakery. First opened in 1976, the bakery has been passed down through four generations and is a pillar of the local baking community. 

Helen Hebb, one of the supervisors at Grandin, gushed about how lucky they are to be in St. Albert. 

“The outpour of people supporting us during the pandemic has been phenomenal,” said Hebb. “We couldn’t ask for better support through the community and even the outlying community.”

“Everyone has been so supportive of us, and we are so appreciative of all the business that people brought here and the word of mouth that people have [used to send] other people here.”