Pembroke — The Raddatz twins learned to bake watching their grandmother and mother at the farm on the Opeongo Line where a hungry family of 12 was ready for a good a meal, so it was only natural to remember those days when the sisters opened their latest bakery adventure and were choosing a name.
“Our grandmother would always say “Schmecks Gut” which means tastes good in German, so we wanted to use that,” said Maureen Hicks. “So, I looked for something like that and we saw Schmecken which means ‘tastes good’ too.”
The steady line up of customers at Schmecken Bakery coming in for the rye bread, croissants, brownies and baked goods or to have lunch at the café showed their customers also agree Schmecken is a good name to go by. The new bakery is also carrying on in the tradition of many successful bakeries before it at the same spot. Most recently known as Klaesis Bakery, it was previously Beck’s Bakery and before that was owned by the Schmidt’s, with a long history dating to the 1800s of serving the community with good baked goods and that German/European touch the area has grown to love.
Maureen and her sister Marie Schruder are also no strangers to owning a bakery, baking, food service, hard work and building up a business together. They were the masterminds behind Bonnechere Bakery and Bistro, which is now owned by Marie’s daughter Angela. They also were the operators of Urban Farm Girls Bakery and Café in Arnprior more recently.
Drawing on their rich family heritage growing up on the Opeongo and then in Kelly’s Corners, they are excited to celebrate the past and give the community what it is looking for with good baked goods and European products. The twins are the second oldest of 10 children, so they naturally stepped into baking and cooking for the large family at an early age.
“In the Opeongo, when it showed, you were snowed in,” Marie recalled. “So, we watched mom and grandma making bread.”
Maureen recalls they would take a strip off the huge bread loaf, deep fry it and serve it with maple syrup. That comfort food is still part of the family tradition today.
“They both showed us how to make good simple, honest food,” she said. “And it was always tasty.”
When they moved to Kelly’s Corners, their first jobs outside the home were at Carmelita’s store at Bulger‘s Corners. The fine cabinets lined with European goods at Schmecken pay tribute to that old fashioned general store.
“We thought it was all so lovely,” Maureen recalled.
“I think that is where our first inspiration came from,” Marie added. “The idea of the shelving here was all from Carmelita’s store.”
The sisters both embarked individually in careers in the food industry and eventually went into business together in downtown Renfrew in 2004. They would bake, experiment and taste test all the products. Crediting their parents for providing them with a good work ethic and business sense, the Bistro quickly became a hit.
“There is value in a hard days work,” Maureen noted.
They decided to downsize a bit and opened the bakery in Arnprior. For a time, they ran both businesses and then Angela took over the Bonnechere Bakery and Bistro. However, they were always looking out for another challenge.
Maureen, who was diagnosed with breast cancer many years ago, saw a recurrence of cancer and the sisters were re-evaluating their business again. However, she has responded well to treatment and she really felt it was time to take on a new challenge.
“I was readying a book and in it Caleb said to God ‘give me this mountain’ and I said to Marie, where is our mountain?” she recalled.
The sisters, both women of deep faith, read the same books and they were inspired. Caleb was 85 when he prayed for the mountain, they noted.
“And I got a call from the doctor and things were good, so I said, ‘what about that mountain Marie?’,” Maureen said.
They came to look at the Klaesis bakery and were captivated by the building and the business possibilities. The bakery has operated as a bakery since 1883. An old picture of W. McGaughey, baker and grocer, is on the bakery walls.
“We love old buildings,” Marie said.
In their early 60s and not ready to retire yet, they decided to buy the business.
“I have a purpose, and this is what I want to do,” Marie noted.
Highly organized, they have a vision and a mission statement. Their mission statement is very important to them and part of the way they life their lives.
“We desire a more authentic lifestyle similar to that lived out by our grandparents – where faith and family values prevailed, ingredient were simple, neighbours were friends and a hard day’s work made you feel satisfied,” it states.
Incorporating this into their new business, the transition has been very smooth and they are delighted to continue to offer some of the traditional items customers looked for there for generations, as well as incorporating new treats. Their baker was trained by former owner Erwin Beck, so the recipes are consistent with those German breads, pretzels and buns. The pastry chef who worked with the Klaesis has stayed with the business. Interestingly enough, she has also worked with the Raddatz twins in Arnprior as a high school co-op student.
“We wanted to keep the knowledge of the Becks, Klaesis and Schmidt’s,” Maureen said.
One change is the reopening of the café which closed during COVID.
“People like to get together and be together,” Marie notes.
They also have a nice patio outdoors with flowers for extra seating. For anyone looking for parking, they note there is additional parking in a large parking lot across the street.
“We want this to be a destination,” Marie said. “We put the word bakery on the side of the building and we want people to come in.”
Maureen said they are excited to have their business be a complement to the other businesses in Pembroke and to be involved in the business community.
So, what is their favourite product?
“Everything,” said Maureen with a laugh.
Schmecken Bakery is open Tuesday to Friday 8:30-4 p.m. and on Saturday from 8:30 to 3 p.m. It is located at 361 Isabella Street in Pembroke.