A Blessing and a Curse: How Covid-19 forced Ambrosia Corner Bakery to Pivot and Succeed

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Kitchener, Ontario-Ambrosia Corner Bakery is a beloved pastry bakery which bakes all their goods in-house. They also partner with other small and local businesses to feature their products in their growing retail store. Onside Media spoke to the Founder Aura Hertzog, about her business, the impact the community has had on her bakery since the start of Covid-19 and her thoughts around this transformation.

Aura Hertzog, Owner, Ambrosia Corner Bakery
Aura Hertzog, Owner, Ambrosia Corner Bakery

Aura Hertzog, Owner, Ambrosia Corner Bakery said, “We started Ambrosia Bakery two years ago. Prior to this, I had a business called Ambrosia Pastry for a couple of years. After going through a breakup and sharing a business, I thought ‘what am I going to do now’. However, an opportunity opened in my neighbourhood, and I thought if I could take a part of the earlier business, change it a little and make it my own. And that’s how Ambrosia Corner Bakery began.”

Sharing her background story, Aura adds that since she was a teenager she has been working in the food industry and always knew that her future would somehow involve food. She just wasn’t sure how that would manifest itself.

“I know the best way I connect with people is through food. I was previously a chef, and I wasn’t a trained baker. My former business partner was a pastry chef and handled all the baking and I did everything else. So, when I opened up Ambrosia, I basically taught myself all the components. Ambrosia has always been more of a community space and before Covid-19, we were a community hub for people to come together for a coffee and something sweet.” adds Aura.

 

How has Covid-19 impacted your business? Did you struggle or see a decline in sales once curb-side pickup was implemented?

When Covid-19 hit we changed the business model. We realised that our space was too small for safe dine-in and outdoor dining. So we continued to adapt and became more of a store offering local products to support the community.

It was scary for everyone, because no one knew what this was going to mean or how the business would function. I had been in the States just before the first lockdown, so I was in isolation for two weeks when everything shut down.

I’m self-employed, there’s no rent relief, there’s no other money, my partner and I had just purchased a house, it was intense. I thought, if I just start baking and see what people will buy. The community response was great.  I baked two days a week, and on the third day, brought in other products  from around the area. During the first lockdown, the demand for products was really high, and for us it was a relief. It was good to know exactly how much to make through the pre-order system we had established. However, in the summer, when things were opening up again, our pre-orders went down and we didn’t have much traffic.

Currently, we are open 3 days a week partly because we got into the Fall season. However, December has been pretty consistent for us and we sell a variety of products. I am physically in my bakery 6 days a week, but there’s a lot of other things to manage with the online store and pre-orders.

BASQUE CHEESECAKE-A Cheesecake inspired by the Basque Region of Spain. The cake is crustless and bakes for a long time at a high temperature which results in a dark caramelized exterior
BASQUE CHEESECAKE-A Cheesecake inspired by the Basque Region of Spain. The cake is crustless and bakes for a long time at a high temperature which results in a dark caramelized exterior

What are Ambrosia’s holiday specialty sweets and pastries available for purchase?

We bake goods and make our ice cream and chocolate in-house directly from the cocoa bean. During the holidays we play around with various ice cream flavours.

This year we did ‘Billionaire short bred’, a three layer shortbread (shortbread, caramel and chocolate) that was baked just for this season.

KOUIGN-AMANN- Our Signature item! The Kouign-Amann is a Bretton pastry that’s similar to croissants but with a lot more butter and sugar to give a caramelizing effect. It’s all about the crunch!
KOUIGN-AMANN- Our Signature item! The Kouign-Amann is a Bretton pastry that’s similar to croissants but with a lot more butter and sugar to give a caramelizing effect. It’s all about the crunch!

Kouign-Amann is our most popular sweet that is unique and delicious and it receives a lot of reviews. It is a laminated pastry similar to a croissant. It gets sold out everyday. We have been doing different twists on it too, such as a lemon version which is popular as well.”

BABKA-A yeasted dough twisted together with chocolate into the perfect circle. Our in-store version is individual miniature chocolate babkas, but you can also buy a frozen loaf to bake at home!
BABKA-A yeasted dough twisted together with chocolate into the perfect circle. Our in-store version is individual miniature chocolate babkas, but you can also buy a frozen loaf to bake at home!

This holiday season we began selling a lot of bake at home products.  We couldn’t keep up with the demand for sticky buns, croissants, Babkas and scones.

 

What is a major challenge you have faced as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

My business is relatively new and majority of our business began during Covid-19. But being an entrepreneur and a baker, you take everything really personally because you put everything into your business and live and breathe your business. So, I think the hard part is not to take things personally.

Before Covid-19, I would think that people don’t like a certain item or why we have more of something that didn’t sell today. It is very emotional and hard to look at your sales and not take it personally. So, that is something I still struggle with as an entrepreneur.

Do you have any advice for other bakers or entrepreneurs trying to start their own business?

Do your research- I see a lot of people who start off with an idea selling to their friends or family or starting a business from home, and I think that is great, but you have to do your homework and look at what opening a space will entail and the logistics of running a successful business.

So do your research to understand your marketplace and operating costs. To be in the industry, you have to grow in the industry, to see if it is for you and then decide whether you want to pursue it. Sometimes a great product is not scalable, and that’s something you have to understand before you get into the market. So make yourself unique to the marketplace, don’t do what other people do.”

Aura Hertzog, Owner, Ambrosia Corner Bakery
Aura Hertzog, Owner, Ambrosia Corner Bakery

A Blessing and a Curse:

Covid-19 has definitely been hard, but it has also given us an opportunity to try something we wouldn’t have necessarily done before. The pandemic forced us to pivot and be creative.  I’ve seen a lot of people do things they wouldn’t normally have done. Being able to open only 3 days a week and really do it well, is not something we would have been able to do pre-Covid.

As a bakery it is always recommended to know what you need to make to avoid waste, which helped me to grow as an entrepreneur. The feedback from our loyal customers has been really great. A lot of small businesses have been getting increased support from their communities especially this holiday season.


Pre-order your baked goods online at: https://ambrosiacornerbakery.com/

Do follow and support: Ambrosia Corner Bakery at @ambrosiacornerbakery on Instagram, on Facebook, and Twitter for updates!


Emma Mitro1

 

Author:  Emma Mitro, Lifestyle, Content Writer for The Onside Media, Canada. If you have any stories or comments  kindly email: – emmamitro.onside@gmail.com