In baking, as in opening a business, timing is everything. And while their timing is perfect with their bread, Voyageurs Sourdough and Bakehouse had an unfortunate launch date for their downtown Green Bay shop — just 10 days before Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order went into effect.
Regulars at the Green Bay farmers market, Voyageurs — founded by married couple Ben Cadman and Celeste Parins — opened its bakery/café/coffee shop in the Rail Yard District in March 2020. “It was a crazy time to launch,” Cadman says.
In addition to selling at the farmers market, the couple — Cadman is from Great Britain, Parins is from Green Bay — had been selling their homemade sourdough bread via home delivery for several years, baking out of a shared kitchen. Those existing customers helped Voyageurs weather the early months of the pandemic. Orders were strong with the bakery usually averaging about 700 to 800 loaves per week.
“We basically doubled down on home delivery,” says Cadman, adding Voyageurs continued baking for wholesale accounts, such as local restaurants and shops.
The Rail Yard location, however, was intended to have a packed café with people dining in house. But, like many businesses, they were forced to do a pandemic pivot, offering curbside pickup and making grab-and-go items available along with some outside seating when they finally reopened in July.
Voyageurs applied for a Back to Business grant offered by the Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce. Anchored by a $200,000 investment by American Foods Group, the chamber gave a total of $276,500 to 39 local businesses, including Voyageurs, which received about $6,800.
“It was sort of a catalyst,” says Cadman, noting the grant — along with their own funding — helped fund a grab-and-go cooler and merchandising/shelving area. “Six months later, it’s proving to be a worthwhile investment.”
Cadman says Voyageurs has been fortunate. “Our revenue streams are diversified. We don’t just rely on retail,” he says.