Feature: German Couple's Bakery amid Epidemic
Uwe Brutzer from Germany has lived in Changsha, Hunan’s capital city, for 18 years. He runs a Western specialty snack shop “Bach’s Bakery”. Half of its employees are deaf-mute.
Bach’s Baker is a little difficult to find being on a small narrow lane. It reopened on February 20. When open there are two small tables at the front door with snacks and juice on them. When customers come, Uwe greets them in both Chinese and English. Customers can choose what they want and get the packed snacks without even entering the shop. After closing, Uwe disinfects the door area again.
“The community officials encouraged us to reopen, and sent disinfectant and ethyl alcohol on the reopening day,” Uwe said.
Eating-in service is not available during the epidemic. However, Uwe, himself, is busier than usual. “My deaf-mute employees cannot read lips of the customers wearing masks,” he said. Therefore, he has to do reception and cashiering in the shop almost every day, together with other two employers.
Snacks are placed on the tables at Bach’s Bakery front door. (Photo/Cai Xiaoxiao)
“Business is better than expected,” Uwe said. He is always positive, though business is far worse than before the epidemic. “Fewer customers, but more sales in each purchase. I would thank them for purchasing our breads amid the epidemic,” Uwe added.
A Nepalese customer bought enough bread for one-week in a single purchase. “Delicious breads, and a kind manager,” the customer commented and got a pack of cookies as a gift from Uwe.
Uwe and his wife, Dorothee Brutzer, came from Germany to Changsha on March 6, 2002. They were with a Germany charity program which offered language training to deaf-mute children in China. “We learned Chinese in 1997 to facilitate working in China,” he said. They came to Hunan as the program needed.
In order to help more deaf-mutes grasp certain skills needed to earn a living and get jobs, the couple opened “Bach’s Bakery” in 2011 and hired a Germany pastry cook to give free training. Now they have 6 deaf-mute employees working in both reception and the kitchen.
All breads are priced at not more than 15 yuan. Uwe persists on providing quality bread at fair prices. Dorothee is committed to assisting charity organizations with speech rehabilitation training. Over the past 18 years, nearly 500 deaf-mutes have received assistance from the couple and 20 deaf-mute cooks found jobs after being trained in the shop.
Uwe speaks with a Nepalese customer. (Photo/Cai Xiaoxiao)
They care about their employees and the situations in China since the COVID-19 epidemic broke out. Being informed of their reopening permission, they returned to Hunan from their Thailand tour immediately.
“We never think about leaving,” Uwe said. He has confidence in China. “We were in China during the SARS outbreak, and witnessed how Chinese government coped with it. This time, they made resolute and effective decisions again to battle the epidemic.”
Uwe has full confidence in the future despite a downturn over last year. “The government promoted our shop when it was inaugurated, and many customers advertised it after learning about our story. We participated in Hunan’s famous TV programs. We are sincerely grateful.” He received masks from Chinese friends during the epidemic period. “The kind-hearted Chinese friends make me feel especially warm. That is why we have stayed in Hunan for years,” he added.
Dorothee and employers celebrate Uwe’s birthday in Bach’s Bakery’s kitchen. (Photo/Cai Xiaoxiao)
Uwe celebrated his 50th birthday on March 5. He and his employees made a German-style cake with a “50” on it together. “Maybe we will go back to our hometown when we get old. But for now, I hope to do more here,” he said.