Bakeries seem to be having a hard time of it lately, especially in the larger cities but, more noticeably, in smaller towns and villages where the local baker tries to sell his wares against mounting competition. There was a time when every housewife baked for her family, when everyone knew that the bread was fresh not just because it filled the house with a wonderful smell, but also because it was still warm. Then the local bakeries began to take over: small businesses in every village, rather like the breweries, with a large selection of items baked on the premises. Family businesses which took some of the responsibilities from already weighed-down shoulders. Sunday mornings there could be fresh bread and rolls for breakfast, without everyone having to rise at four in the morning to prepare the dough.
Photo Source: Rajesh_India – Creative Commons
With the passage of time the smaller bakeries expanded, took over shops and businesses in neighboring villages, provided employment as well as sustenance for all and then began to cast their ideas further afield. Baking bread become a real commercial prospect, and the first factories were built.
Today you can still buy locally made bread in small bakeries in Germany, but local has become a far wider area and the shops are not quite as close to one another as they used to be. Fresh bread rolls for Sunday breakfast might be available in the next village or town but not closer at hand, and the old baker’s house is used now just for living, not for working. And there are the supermarkets.
As the marketplace for bread changed over the years, people complained that they couldn’t get their daily ration without traveling. Bakers noted the changes in their areas, the lack of custom in smaller villages, cited commercial needs, costs. They needed to stay in business, and that meant closing smaller stores, amalgamating with other bakers, growing in size. Too much competition from the factories, from the supermarkets.
Today they are beginning to adapt again. The supermarkets, which have local bakeries in them, also have factory bread and deep-frozen products. Bakers complain about the rash of bake-on-demand shops alongside the competition from discounters and major stores. Fresh bread is a thing of the past in many towns and cities; it is transported from major factories across the country or smaller, family concerns within a larger region. Customers are not quite so happy with the supply as they used to be, bread-making machines have enjoyed a comeback.
And the smaller shops who rely on deliveries from a local baker? They now have ovens in full view of the customers. Dough is formed in a factory and delivered early in the morning, then baked as customers come in for service. Not quite a full circle, leaving out the housewife, but close enough, were it not for the fact that some still have to travel to buy. Competition remains hard, but many are willing to adapt, willing to try new means of winning customers away from the supermarkets and factories and back into the family business, even if that family is still, behind the scenes, a factory.
- Viktoria Michaelis.