Stress relief from the office turns into a business

New Traders: Camerino bakery, Capel Street

 

The bakery business can get emotional – eliciting joy and disappointment – which is why Caryna Camerino, of the Camerino bakery in Dublin’s Capel Street, makes sure she never runs out of her top-selling Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies. “When I see disappointment on people’s faces it’s a fail,” she says.

She makes sure there is plenty to delight, from the cakes that have regular fans to new ones added to the range, to maintain creativity and variety. “We always go beyond expectations, with birthday cakes for instance,” says Camerino, describing how she loves the “whoa” she gets from people when she hands over a rich chocolate cake with unexpected adornments.

Adding to the emotions around sweet carbohydrates, is the fact that cakes mark the passage of life. Camerino saw one customer through from her baby shower and Christening to birthday cakes up to her sixth birthday when the family moved back to the US and came to say goodbye.

Camerino came the other way, from Canada, backpacking in the Europe her ancestors came from: she has a mix of French, German, Romanian, Polish, Spanish and Italian in her blood. She planned to stay for just two days in Ireland but has been here for 14 years and counting.

She had arrived in the boom and immediately got a temp job at an engineering firm which promoted her to the HR department and sponsored her to stay in Ireland; a job that resulted – when recession hit – in her having to lay people off. “It was the worst . . . and I began to bake to feel better; to relieve the stress,” says Camerino. She opened a stall in a market in Ranelagh and found “a stark difference, when standing behind a stall piled with cakes, in how people talked to me. Selling cakes was the absolute opposite of donning a suit and going to a construction site where people knew why you were approaching them.”

The happy people who came with cake-selling made Camerino want to open a coffee shop and bakery but she had to wait to get citizenship. So she continued the market and delivery business, baking brownies through the night – setting the alarm every 45 minutes as each batch came out of her domestic oven – delivering them on a Vespa, with bags of cakes hanging off the handlebars, before going to work at 8.30am. “I was exhausted but happy,” says Camerino who said the business just grew by word of mouth. “I never had a strategy.”

The name of her delivery business – Lovin’ From the Oven (and there is another business with the same name in Galway) – reflects the emotional aspect of cakes but she wanted a different name for the shop.

Researching her family history, she found that her Italian ancestors had had a coffee business – Cafe Camerino – which had been sold in the 1990s. Before that the family had been coffee roasters and this, says Camerino, is what had helped her grandfather, Enzo Camerino, return home to Italy after being in Auschwitz.

On October 16th, 1943 he was transported from Rome, with over a thousand others, by train to the concentration camp. A couple of years later, as Allied forces approached, the people running the camp took prisoners into the woods from where Enzo and his brother escaped, says Camerino. At the Polish border many people tried in vain to flag down lorries to take them home. Camerino says Enzo and his brother approached an Italian lorry transporting coffee. When the driver heard their name – and recognised the family – he drove the brothers back to Rome.

As Caryna was about to open her shop in Capel Street in the autumn of 2014, she knew, despite all the work that needed to be done to get it ready, that she had to go to Rome where Enzo had met the pope the year before for the 70th anniversary of the day they were taken to Auschwitz. The whole family went to Rome the following year, in 2014. While Caryna was there family members in Italy gave her branded objects from the time they owned Cafe Camerino.

She returned in time to open her shop – funded by crowd-sourced Linked Finance – with its beautifully designed blue exterior and silvery white writing. It recalls bakeries in her home city of Montreal, with its window display and cakes piled on plates across the counter – “like a jewellery store” – with their ruby raspberries and golden glazed challah bread. From within – where she and staff make cakes and coffee – she enjoys watching people walking along the street and having their heads turned, with a double-take, by buns and biscuits in the window.

She has doubled turnover each year since opening and has just started opening on Sundays and is running courses.

She loves Capel Street with its mix of non-chain shops – “you can get anything here” – and the camaraderie: swapping change or helping out with replacing till rolls with the likes of Panti Bar, The Model Shop, Brother Hubbard and Oxmanstown.

Just after she opened the shop Caryna spoke to her grandfather Enzo, who lived in Montreal, on the phone on December 1st, 2014. She thanked him for the money he had sent her to buy coffee.

“Granddad was saying how proud he was that I had called the bakery Camerino,” says Caryna. Enzo passed away the following day, on his birthday. “He died happy, knowing that the Camerino name was on a coffee shop again.”