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Moving Out - Middleton bakery looking for new digs after building improvement woes

Erica Pretzlaw stands behind the display counter at Middletown Sweets where she serves a regular clientele her popular baked goods and daily lunches. A recent building improvement project has Pretzlaw closing up shop and looking for a new space.
Erica Pretzlaw stands behind the display counter at Middletown Sweets where she serves a regular clientele her popular baked goods and daily lunches. A recent building improvement project has Pretzlaw closing up shop and looking for a new space. - Lawrence Powell

Pretzlaw closing on March 31

MIDDLETON, NS - One of Middleton’s best-smelling businesses is looking for a new home after a building upgrade left a lingering odor that owner Erica Pretzlaw says doesn’t jive with the aroma of fresh bread.

Middletown Sweets, located on Main Street between Scotiabank and the post office, was closed for a month when the landlord did work on the building. When the little bakery re-opened, Pretzlaw soon decided she’d have to close and move.

A sign in the window both explained the situation and appealed for a bit of help from her customers.

“Effective March 31 we are looking for new digs to move to,” the sign said. “This is an unexpected but now necessary move due to lingering effects of a recent building improvement gone awry, which many of you are aware of.”

Pretzlaw admits that not everyone notices the lingering smell, and says the landlord has done everything possible to accommodate her. She even knows that the smell will probably dissipate eventually. But she can’t wait.

Business Decision

“It’s a business decision of mine,” she said about the month-end closing. “I don’t want a customer of mine to walk in and smell anything other than delicious bread and cinnamon buns.”

She’s been the proprietor there for six years this summer and the bakery was open for many years before that. It’s primarily a single-serve bakery. She doesn’t make wholesale amounts of goods and the interaction with customers is one-on-one and always with a smile.

“I do everything in small batches by hand,” she said. “Direct sale to the customer. I offer a crossover into lunches, homemade sandwiches, soups, chili, sometimes savoury snacks. I’m happy to have that part of the service as well. Coffee.”

A regular customer walks in and stands at the back of a short line. By the time he gets to the counter Pretzlaw already has his two loaves of white bread sliced and in bags and asks him if he wants anything else.

“I see everybody, from the smallest of children, school kids, seniors coming in for coffee, staying a while and having a chat with friends,” she said. “I often get recommendations from people at the bank, or Bruce Auto Group brings in tons of people from out of town.”

Business Hurdles

“I feel there are enough hurdles a business can face without worrying about an environmental odor or situation that I wouldn’t normally have to deal with,” she said. “I just don’t want to have that worry – that question over my head. I don’t want to have to deal with it possibly for months.”

In her sign in the front window – similar to a Facebook post that’s been getting a lot of comments – she’s not giving up. “We’re not one to fall into despair and are optimistic there is a great place for us out there,” she wrote. “If you’re aware of any space coming available, or possibly someone open to sharing a large space, a business in transition, or even a space on wheels, who knows, I may be able to make it work.”

And while some may feel bad for Pretzlaw, she feels bad for many of her regulars who have built up a daily routine that includes a stop at her bakery.

“I feel as if something like this could have an impact on their direct routine,” she said. “I wanted to give them as long an opportunity as I could. It was only a day between when I made the final decision and when I told them so that they could adjust and maybe help me brainstorm up a good next fit.”

The Future

She’s got two weeks left before she will close the doors on the Main Street location.

“There’s nothing but a whole bunch of opportunities, possibilities, and considerations at this time,” she said. “I have no clear direction, next step. People are in some cases approaching me for an opportunity, which is fabulous and semi-unexpected. Since saying this is what I needed I’m receiving people saying ‘hey, I’d love to see your business down where we are.’ What it’s done has given me an unexpected opportunity, a renewed excitement or vigor for what the possibilities for what I do could be. It’s caused a whole lot of daydreaming and entrepreneurial spirit.”

But she’s aware that time can be of the essence.

“The longer it is that I’m out of sight, the harder it is to come back,” she said.

The last words on the sign?

“We have a great business and an excellent rental history so we are confident someone out there has a place for us,” she wrote. “In the meantime it’s business as usual while we await the universe to answer.”

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