Local baker’s Swiss traditions become rising success

By Jocelyn Galloway
Special to the Times

Every Thursday in the Township of Alberton, you will find Debora Gerber in her kitchen, mixing history, kneading culture and designing personality into her bread.

Debora has fond memories from her childhood in Switzerland, of her mother making fresh bread for their household. After she moved to Canada six years ago and started a family of her own, Debora wanted to give her family the same experience, so she asked her mother for the recipe.

Debora Gerber actively balances her small business and taking care of her three children: Levi, Liam and Naomi.

“It took me a few tries before I was able to start making good bread,” she said. “Then people started telling me it was really good and that I should try to sell it. They asked me if I would be willing to sell from the minimart veggie stand and that’s what I did.”

For two years, Debora sold her bread out of the Gerber’s Minimart, which is open throughout the summer months. The feedback was amazing, she said.

Last year, Debora decided to name her business Fleur de pain and created a Facebook page, in the hopes of sparking enough interest to expand her enterprise.

Fleur de pain bread is now sold year round at the Emo Feed Service, which is co-owned by Debora’s husband, Johannes Gerber.

“His family is originally from Switzerland too,” said Debora. “Our parents kind of knew each other.”

On a trip to Canada to visit her cousins, she met Johannes and the rest was history.

Although her family still lives in Switzerland, a lot of Johannes’ family is in the area. Johannes father moved to Canada with his family when he was eight-years-old.

The history of their family means a lot to Debora. By making bread, it has created an opportunity for her to share Swiss culture and traditions with the community.

Fleur de pain regularly sells three main breads throughout the year: the alpine bread, the pulla (a sweet Finnish traditional bread) and la tresse (the braided Swiss specialty bread).

During holiday seasons, Debora has experimented with limited quantities of some of the baked goods of her childhood.

During the Christmas season, she made little dough men called “grittibenz” which means man with bow legs. For Epiphany, she made “king cake” and shared the fun tradition on her Facebook page. Whoever eats the part of the cake containing the hidden figurine gets to be proclaimed as “king of the day” and wears the paper crown.

After the positive response from the Epiphany baking, Debora put together some Easter baking. The packages include eight hot cross buns, one Lindt chocolate bunny and some mini Cadbury eggs.

“It is always nice to try something new and see if people are interested,” she said.

Debora Gerber bakes 15 or more loaves of bread every week to sell at Emo Feeds Services

With three young children and only one in school full-time, Debora said the most difficult part of owning a small business is trying to find the balance between family and work.

She is looking to grow the business in the future, as her children become more independent, but for right now she is happy where she is.

“It is important to me for my kids to know where they have come from,” said Debora. “My goal is to always keep the traditions.”