When Amy Taylor got a call from a customer asking what it would cost to buy out the entire front of her bakery case, she was stunned.
Taylor owns Bert's Bakery on Westnedge in Kalamazoo, and like many business owners across the country, she is struggling to keep her doors open amid social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
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"Their intent was to keep me in business, keep my employees employed," she said. "I had to lay off two full-time employees and one part-time person last Friday, so right now it’s kind of a two-man show and honestly I could go it alone right now and be just fine, but I want to, you know, try to take care of my employees as much as possible.”
Taylor put together some figures and gave the caller a quote.
"I’ve cried a lot this morning, so it really does mean a lot," she said. "I’ve been at Bert's Bakery since I was 15 years old, and I’ve owned it since I was 22 and I have supported a lot of, you know, troops and baseball teams and people when they passed away, you know, baked their cakes and donated them. ... I just didn’t think that maybe somebody would come in my time of need."
To pay the gesture forward, Taylor delivered a van full of tasty treats to health care workers helping to fight the virus at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo.
“We thought that, maybe, you know, if this was something that we were going to do and we were going to be blessed with, that we would bless somebody else," she said.
Taylor's sister is a nurse in Bronson's emergency room, and she said a number of her family members have worked for the hospital. Bronson has also been a customer of Bert's Bakery.
On Wednesday, Taylor packed up her bright pink-and-black delivery van to the brim with countless confections and drove over to Bronson Methodist's Gilmore Education Center. Outside, Bronson staff were ready with carts to fill up with Taylor's treats and bring them to their coworkers.
Teresa Oisten, systems manager for Bronson Media Event Resources, said staff were extremely grateful for the gift.
"We're so grateful to the community and for their support," Oisten said. "Today has been an awesome day. We have actually had several donations and food donations so we are so grateful."
Taylor wasn't able to enter the facility because Bronson was limiting the number of outside visitors to their campuses to prevent further transmission of COVID-19.
Taylor planned to continue donating to the health care community.
“We are going to continue this process and go to Borgess Hospital tomorrow and bless them as well,” she said.
While Oisten wanted the community to know they appreciated all donations, she also wanted to remind the public they were looking for some specific donations that could help save lives.
"We are looking for personal protection equipment, some cleaning supplies and also some face masks," she said. "We ask that those are unopened and unused."
Those donations could be dropped off at any of five drop-off locations, Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.:
- Kalamazoo: Bronson FastCare, 6220 West Main Street
- Portage: Bronson Diagnostics at Woodbridge, 2640 West Centre Street
- Battle Creek: Bronson Urology Specialists, 4441 Capital Avenue Southwest
- Paw Paw: Bronson LakeView Outpatient Center, 451 Health Parkway
- South Haven: Bronson Family Medicine, 930 Blue Star Highway
In the meantime, Taylor said, the community needed to stick together and support as many small businesses as possible. Taylor was helping by offering local products at Bert's Bakery.
"We at Bert's Bakery right now have brought in bread from Victorian Bakery and we’re trying to create some sales for them," she said. "We’d like to help Renzema’s Bakery out in Parchment, who is again a standalone small business. They have amazing donuts. We’d like people to start ordering donuts by the dozen and pick them up at Bert’s Bakery on Westnedge."
She asked local businesses to contact Bert's Bakery to get involved.
"We want to help our friends," Taylor said, "And if you’re one of those people that you think that I can help you by selling your product, contact me.”
Bert's Bakery contact information:
- Address: 4419 South Westnedge Avenue, Kalamazoo, MI 49008
- Phone: 269-492-9111
- Fax: 269-364-2899
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hours of operation:
- Monday through Saturday: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Sunday: Closed