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Patiseria Casandra: traditional pastries - new ideas

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“My mother was managing the ‘production unit’ in the centre of Bucharest until communism collapsed and in 1991, when privatisation started, she had to make a choice: buy the unit and keep running it or move on. In order to keep it, she had to guarantee the purchase with her house and help from friends and neighbours. It was a big risk at the time, but she pulled through,” explains Octavian Popescu, who runs Patiseria Casandra today.

Octavian, his mother Alexandrina - from whom the patisserie takes its name - and his wife all work together to keep this family business alive. They specialise in traditional Romanian pastries like ‘cozonac’, confectionary, cakes and desserts, sourcing ingredients locally and trying to keep things simple and natural, without additives. “This is why we only have one location,” Octavian adds, “a second one would mean freezing products and we don’t want to do that. We prefer to ensure quality and freshness by focussing on one location.”

The patisserie, a landmark in downtown Bucharest, has thus maintained its original authenticity with traditional recipes and handmade products. At the same time, however, it is moving forward with the times: “My wife and I became more involved in order to modernise the business. We started importing chocolate from Belgium, renovated the facilities, and we developed an online presence and introduced new lines of business like delivery, collaborating with UberEats and Glovo. Delivery in particular is growing very fast. But we don’t want to lose the link with the past. Patiseria Casandra has a strong brand and very loyal customers who have been coming here for generations.”

Some of the employees have also been with them from the beginning, and as Octavian explains, replacing those who retire is a challenge in itself. “It’s very difficult to find skilled workers nowadays. Many Romanians choose to go abroad and patisserie-schools have disappeared from Romania. So we rely a lot on the older staff to share their know-how and train the newcomers. It works, but it’s difficult.”

With an EU-guaranteed loan from Libra Internet Bank, backed by the EIF, Octavian was able to renovate the office, re-organise the workspace and professionalise the business side of the patisserie. “Demand is changing in Romania. We have more requests for personalised cakes for example, and people look for new things like Halloween cookies. While our heart is in traditional patisserie, it’s important that we keep up with changing trends in society and by professionalising everything, we are much better placed to do that.”

Company: Patiseria Casandra (Romania)

Type of business: food & beverage

EIF financing: SME Initiative Romania

Financial intermediary: Libra Internet Bank

For further information about EIF intermediaries in Romania, please refer to: http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/ro/index.htm

 

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