After many years in business, Paul’s Bakery owner Hannu Koski is calling it quits.
The bakery, a longtime favourite for Saultites, will close its doors for the last time at 3 p.m., Saturday May 25.
The closure isn’t due to a downturn in business.
In fact, business is still booming at Paul’s Bakery, even bouncing back from a recent slump while roadwork was carried out on Wellington Street West, right in front of the store.
While Hannu was not available for comment, his sister Raija Koski took time to speak with SooToday, she and the staff faithfully and cheerfully producing and selling the bakery’s last batches of goods to regular customers as the closing date approached.
“He (Hannu) is retiring. It’s time,” Raija said.
“He’s not going to sell the Paul’s Bakery name or the recipes because he wants to preserve the reputation the bakery has (though the building itself, at 213 Wellington St. W., will eventually be put up for sale).”
“It’s something he enjoyed doing. He enjoyed baking, even though it’s hard work getting up at four in the morning,” Raija said.
Paul’s Bakery specialized in Finnish coffee bread, known as pulla bread.
“We can’t keep it in stock,” said Raija, customers buying up pulla as fast as the bakers could produce it.
“On a regular day, we sold 20 to 25 loaves of it a day, sometimes 30 or 40 loaves on a busy weekend. Right now (with the bakery closing) we’re pumping out a hundred a day.”
In the past, Raija and Hannu’s mother Maija specialized in all aspects of baking, including wedding cakes.
“For me, it’s really bittersweet (to close). It would be really difficult to replace Maarit (Tanninen, one of Paul’s Bakery’s veteran employees). She’s ready to retire as well,” Raija said.
Hannu and Raija were born in Finland, moving to Sault Ste. Marie with their parents Pentti and Maija in 1957.
In 1960, Raija’s mother went to work for Paul Blomquist, the original Paul’s Bakery owner, who set up shop in the mid-1950s at a location on Second Line West.
Pentti and Maija Koski bought the bakery from Blomquist in 1967, the business having relocated to its present Wellington Street West location in the early 1960s, the Koski family living above the bakery.
Maija worked in the bakery while Pentti worked at Algoma Steel.
After high school, Raija moved to London, Ontario, going on to become a French language and literature professor at the University of Western Ontario while Hannu stayed and ran the bakery.
Now retired, Raija said she visits the Sault often.
“I’ve been up here much more lately (to assist Hannu in closing the bakery).”
“This bakery is my mother’s legacy. I’m very proud Hannu and I were able to maintain her legacy and that of Paul Blomquist as well,” Raija said.
“It’s one of the few Finnish businesses that are still around in the Sault. When we moved here in 1957, and into the 60s, there was a ‘little Finland’ up on Albert Street.”
“There was a Finnish butcher, public saunas, a hairdresser, a restaurant, you could do all your business in Finnish but those businesses have slowly disappeared one by one, and we’re one of the last businesses with a Finnish tradition,” Raija said.
“We still have a lot of loyal customers, and we ship to other places in Ontario and Canada. I think the bakery closing will be a loss for the community in general. There are not many small bakeries like this still around.”
Raija intends to remain in London, but stated “I love the Sault.”
“I still have really close friends from high school and we have a family camp. It’ll absolutely always be home,” Raija said, stating she intends to spend more time baking at her London home in her retirement.
“The customers are sad. I read some of their lovely comments on Facebook and it makes me want to weep,” said Raija, still managing a warm, gracious smile.
“I want to say a big ‘thank you’ for all the years of loyalty from our customers. A huge thank you to the community of Sault Ste. Marie.”