Today I want to share with you a story of the oldest bakery in Helsinki and its founder.
Fredrik Ekberg was an orphan boy learning an art of watchmaking. He didn’t really like it, and was looking for other options. He ended up being an apprentice to Master Baker Shulin in Helsinki. He learned the baking craft and travelled to St. Petersburg, Viborg, Hamina and Riga to hone his culinary skills. In 1852 after he was done with the trainings and the culinary exam, he founded bakery “Ekberg” in Helsinki.
Couple of years later, Ekberg applied for a license to open a coffee shop. At the time, one could buy a cup of coffee in Helsinki only at the market tents in summer, and the idea to open a “designated” place where one would go just to get coffee was surprising. The authorities denied his request saying that no one would go there except for “poor widows”. Ekberg appealed the decision and finally opened his first cafe “Gropen.” It was a huge success as students and government officials working nearby became a permanent customers.
But Ekberg didn’t stop there. Later he built a three-store building in the center of the city – bakery, bread shop and cafe, all in one place. He also founded a spirits factory and invested in tobacco business. Interestingly enough, these investments actually saved the bakery and cafe during the time of financial troubles in 1869.