422 W. Willis St.
Detroit Michigan 48201United States
An organic bakery creates community in one of downtown Detroit's roughest neighborhoods.
Twelve years ago, Jackie Victor and Ann Perrault planned a bakery that would offer far more thanbaked goods. They hoped that Avalon International Breads would help transform the Cass Corridor, a broken-down, crime-plagued downtown Detroit neighborhood long known as oneof the city's poorest. A landlord offered little encouragement, telling them "the neighborhoodisn't ready for windows." But Jackie and Ann considered themselves neither bakers nor business owners. They preferred to think like activists, and the Cass Corridor needed "an oasis where people would feel like everything was OK," Jackie says. So they opened Avalon with a focus on using organic flour to bake more than 20 kinds of bread -- 1,500 loaves every day. Each morning, delivery trucks take cinnamon-raisin loaves, fresh baguettes and crusty sourdough to restaurants and shops. In the retail store, Motor City Blend coffee brews while cookies, pastries and brioche tempt from glass cases. Jackie and Ann haven't had to replace a windowyet, and they've seen more small businesses open in the area sometimes called Midtown. Several old buildings have been renovated into lofts, and Ann lives in a home near the bakery. "It came at exactly the right time, when Midtown was starting to come awake," says customer Margaret B. Palmer. "It's more than a bakery. It's a community gathering spot." Avalon donates some of its bread daily to soup kitchens and pays 35 employees a living wage. The bakery menu includes family recipes, too. As a tribute to Jackie's Jewish roots, Avalon bakes her aunt's challah to sell every Friday, and cookie recipes, such as their popular oatmeal-raisin, originate from Ann's mom, who baked daily for her family of 12. "Our commitment is to the neighborhood, with a global influence," Jackie says. "We never could've visualized the community of support that has grown up around this place. It's taken on its own life."