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February 14, 2003 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-02-14

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Victor's Avalon bakery inspires the rebuilding

of her Detroit neighborhood.

Staff Writer

Inspired By Jewish Roots

The warm, earthy Victor attributes her skills to
Jewish family values.
"My grandparents were very honest, extremely
hard-working and grateful for everything they had,"
she says. Victor is the granddaughter of the owners
of Ben Victor's Department Store on Hastings Street
in Detroit's old Jewish neighborhood. She says her
parents were mentshen and creative thinkers.
Victor remembers going on a ski trip with her
father as a young girl. He wanted to publicize a
business class he would teach lawyers who were on
vacation. "He made a deal with me," Victor says,
"that if I put up posters, we'd ski for a day."
She agreed and hundreds of people showed up for
his class — the beginning of his business, the American

including restaurants like the Whitney in Detroit
and specialty grocery stores like Nino Salvaggio.
"We're exploring what it means to be a successful
small business in this economy," Victor says. "We're
not interested in growth for growth's sake. Our
dream is to do what we do well and hopefully
inspire and help others to fulfill their dream and
start other businesses."
Detroit activist Grace Boggs, who received the
Anti-Defamation League Lifetime Achievement
Award in 2001, says Avalon has been "a great suc-
cess" at just that. A cooperative that includes a
gallery, gift shop and clothing store opened next door
and Back Alley Bikes opened around the corner, she
says. Also University of Michigan students are work-
ing to revitalize nearby Chinatown on Cass.

I is 10 degrees outside, but the people
streaming into Avalon International Breads
near Wayne State University warm up
Jewish MBAs And Detroit
A businessman lines up behind a couple of stu-
dents, a young mother cradling her infant and a
Victor says Judaism has always been a big part of her
man from a nearby homeless shelter waiting in the
family's identity. Her father has led AIPAC (American
neighborhood bakery and cafe. They're all there
Israel Public Affairs Committee), and her brother,
for the homemade breads, muffins, cookies, sand-
David, currently plays that role. After her mother's death
wiches and coffee — and the caring ambiance.
last July, she returned to some Jewish study and services.
"The atmosphere is relaxed, the people are diverse
Victor and her siblings promised their mother
and easy-going, and it's a fun place to work," says
they would say Kaddish for her for a year. So while
daughter Rafaella goes to Temple Emanu-El's day
Lesley O'Connell, 41, of Wayne, one of Avalon's 30
full- and part-time employees.
It's no accident that Avalon, a gathering
e're not interested in growth for growth's sake. Our dream is to do what we do well and
place for the community, landed in the
middle of Detroit. For more than a decade,
hopefully inspire and help others to fulfill their dream and start other businesses. —Jackie Victor
the neighborhood has been home to owner
Jackie Victor, 37, formerly of West
Bloomfield, her partner Ann Perrault, 42,
care in Oak Park, Victor gOes daily to morning
and their daughter Rafaella, 2.
g services at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in
They chose to open a small business there as a
Southfield, and also studies with Rabbi Joseph
way of rebuilding their Detroit neighborhood.
"Avalon has a commitment to the city," says
"It's a very powerful experience going to syna-
Kenny Rose, 23, of Detroit, a bakery regular.
gogue every day," Victor says. At her study ses-
The business donates food every . week to
sions, she says, "We're deconstructing the service
Food Not Bombs, he says, as well as to other
and we discuss the essence of prayer."
organizations that feed the poor and hungry,
Impressed by his new student, Rabbi Krakoff
including shelters such as COTS and the
says that Victor is a deep thinker. "She's very spir-
Mariner's Inn. Avalon's owners also mentor
itual and really passionate," he says. "I'm learning
fledgling business owners in - the area on busi-
with her twice a month."
ness plans, insurance and licenses.
He also sees Victor's work as a community
The community also gives back to Avalon.
leader in Detroit as an outgrowth of her Judaism.
One Christmas, during the bakery's busiest
Jackie Victor
"Community is such an important value in
time of the year, its oven broke. Dough was
Judaism," he says. "It's living in partnership with
shaped into ready-to-bake breads, and Victor and
Educational Institute, that now does seminars for doc-
other human beings. Jewish teachings give you the
Perrault decided to give them away to anyone who
tors and lawyers on vacation around the country.
mechanics to go into the community and translate
wanted to bake them. People not only took them,
Victor carries on the family business tradition
these values into actions."
but gave donations, which totaled more money
with her own blend of politics and community
Victor believes Jews have a special part to play in
than if they had sold them baked.
this community development.
"Jackie's making a difference and teaching a lot
Her and Perrault's ideas buck the notion that to
"Many of our parents were small business owners,
of us that one can and should make a difference in
run a successful business, profit is the bottom line.
many Jewish kids now have MBAs. What if people
Detroit," says Elaine Driker of Detroit, who chairs
Though important, Victor-says, profit bows to
mentored with small business owners in the city?
the executive advisory board of the Detroit Jewish
other bottom lines at Avalon that include respecting
Partnership opportunities are not just with the elite in
Initiative of the Jewish Community Council of
the environment (by using more expensive, but
Detroit, but also with people in the neighborhoods."
Metropolitan Detroit.
healthier organic flour that's not grown with chemi-
Growing up, Victor says she was mentored by her
The reality of doing business in the Cass
cals or pesticides) and nurturing "right relationships,"
father, a lawyer and businessman, who taught her
Corridor neighborhood near WSU is not easy,
which means respecting all customers and treating
how to analyze things that later helped her open her
Driker adds. "But she's verysairvy,:ex4ilisitely ' -' ' -'
employees fairly.
own business.
bright,- passionate,undideep1}7 c"ommicteti t to things
Such beliefs led Avalon co, pull put of the Detroit
When Avalon opened, his teachings so clearly
she believes'iti ..•J-ackie , has' all7vayg marthid to yher
Chamber of Commeite When' ii 'asked members to
imprinted the fledgling business that, Victor says,
own drummer. She reflects very positively on the
fight against paying a minimum wage.
her partner Ann used to joke, "Avalon's run by an
Jewish community and on her generation within
That didn't hurt the bakery. It continues to grow.
old Jewish guy: Me!" 0
the Jewish community. She's a real role model."
Now about 25 wholesale customers feature its bread,




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