Catherine Kedzierski and her husband Michael founded the bakery when they immigrated from Poland in the 1960s. Photo courtesy of St. Joseph Bakery

A sweet family legacy is filling up Easter baskets

  • March 27, 2018

Running a small business is a lot like making babka: It takes time, effort and patience but the end result is something truly sweet.

Since 1963, St. Joseph Bakery in St. Catharines, Ont., has been filling the Easter baskets of Polish Catholics with sweet breads, pierogies and cured meats. Founded by Polish immigrants, Michael and Catherine Kedzierski, the bakery has grown since its humble beginnings.

“When they started the business, my grandfather was working at the paper mill and my grandmother was cleaning hotel rooms,” said Derek Kedzierski, co-owner and grandson of the original founders. “It was not very successful at first so they had to sell it. But when my parents got married in 1973, they bought it back with their wedding money.”

That is when the business took off. Located in the heart of a Catholic community on what used to be St. Joseph’s Catholic School and next door to a Polish Catholic church, a visit to the bakery became an after-Mass tradition for those attending Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish

“We are close to the church and what used to be a large community of Polish and Ukrainian immigrants. Many of them didn’t have cars and we were within walking distance,” said Barbara Kedzierski. 

St Joseph bakery polish 02St. Joseph's Bakery participates in the Facer European Festival in St. Catharines, ON.

“Now we have people coming from all over. We have customers from Rochester and Buffalo who come a few times a year to buy goodies for the whole family.”

To accommodate the growing business, the bakery has undergone four major additions over the past 40 years. Easter is one of the busiest times at the bakery. Derek, Barbara and their staff work long hours preparing traditional Easter foods such as babka, pierogies and cabbage rolls.

“Polish people really like to celebrate Easter with ham. They also put together Easter baskets to bring to church and fill them with offerings like sweet loaves and decorated eggs,” said Derek.

To accommodate the younger generation’s more health-conscious mindset, they have also started a deli section that makes freshly prepared sandwiches. Barbara, the baker of the family, says that the sweets will never go out of fashion.

“People will always love to eat babka and strudel.” 

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