Ann Perrault is a Motor City Breadwinner
Lesbian-owned bakery Avalon Breads uses baked goods and Buddhist teachings to help revive a struggling Detroit community
In 1997 Ann Perrault and her then-partner Jackie Victor opened an organic bakery in the economically stricken Cass Corridor district of Detroit, Mich. Fourteen years later, Avalon International Breads—and the neighborhood it calls home—are thriving.
When they first bought an unfinished Detroit storefront in 1997 with the intention of opening up a bakery, the property was, to say the least, quite a fixer upper. The future site of Avalon International Breads lacked lighting and working plumbing—not to mention the fact that its location in Cass Corridor, a blighted neighborhood in the city’s Midtown area, might have deterred less optimistic business owners.
But with a lot of hard work—and a lot of organic flour—Perrault and Victor have managed to turn Avalon into a veritable Midtown institution. The bakery currently sees more than 1,000 customers each day, with people braving long lines just to buy Avalon’s signature loaves, like their Pontchartrain Pumpernickel, Motown Multigrain and even their healthy version of Wonder bread.
The philosophy that fuels the company is just as wholesome as the food it sells. Perrault and Victor opened Avalon using the Buddhist “right livelihood” business model, which emphasizes community, earth-friendly practices and a fierce dedication to employees. From the get go, Perrault and Victor have offered fair wages, benefits and health insurance to Avalon employees. Many of these employees are Cass Corridor residents, which reflects the pair’s efforts to integrate Avalon into a struggling neighborhood without alienating or excluding any of the locals.
Thanks in part to Avalon’s presence, Cass Corridor has begun to flourish in the last 14 years. Streets once lined with abandoned buildings are now home to independent bookstores, boutiques and salons. With public and private enterprises working together to make the Midtown area more livable—and profitable—it seems Cass Corridor is on the brink of a developmental renaissance.
Since 1997, Avalon has undergone some changes of its own: in 2008 the bakery relocated to a spacious site around the corner, and expanded their menu to include pastries (many of which are vegan), artisan coffee and seasonal dishes—all made using organic, local and sustainable ingredients whenever possible.
Though the couple has parted ways, Avalon International Breads continues to prosper as the only bakery in Southeast Michigan to use 100 percent organic flour. Plus, with many of their products now available at grocery stores and restaurants throughout Michigan, ladies across the Great Lakes State can savor the sweet taste of the bakery’s success. (avalonbreads.net)