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Bakeries vie to be breadwinnersQuality independent bakers fightback against chaebol
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승인 2013.04.08  11:41:14
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A La Papa is one of the finer bakeries that have opened up on Jeju, offering a variety of savoury and sweet options. Photo by Mary Rager

Jeju is plagued by chain bakeries offering a variety of less-than-superb snacks and breads. While Paris Baguette, Tous le Jours, E-Mart bakeries and the like offer convenience by being located on every corner, or inside the major super-markets, they are not the only option for breads, desserts, and treats on Jeju. With the emergence of privately owned, gourmet bakeries like A La Papaand Le Escargot, the dream of having delicious, grain and nut-filled breads, tarts, and snacks is becoming a reality.

But, will they last or be lost in the shadows of chain and chaebol bakeries?

A La Papa, located in the Shin Jeju neighborhood of Yeon-dong has been up and running for just two years but is already a staple, especially amongst the expat community. Offering a variety of bread loaves including rye and whole grain, as well as bread treats, such as spinach ciabattas, baguettes, and wheat rolls, A La Papa has treasured items that are hard to find in the chain bakeries. They also have a selection of fruit tarts, homemade jams, and gourmet choco-lates. Order a cup of coffee or tea and you’ll have the perfect treat.

Similarly, Le Escargot, located in the Shin Jeju neighborhood of Nohyeong-dong, also offers fruit, nut, and grain-filled breads, loaves, pizza squares, and sweet treats. Open for only 10 months, Le Escargot has quickly made the list of expat-approved bakeries. Owned by Kang Tae-won and tasty delicacies provided by the vivacious Chef Ko Young-jun, this bakery’s warm atmos-phere makes a great spot to just drop by for your bread needs or to enjoy a coffee and a scrumptious snack.

Le escargot is hoping to exploit the niche market for quality breads on Jeju. Photo by Mary Rager.

Yet despite all the deliciousness oozing out of these amazing bakeries and their growing popularity, these bakeries face numerous challenges. Neither is located on a main road, next to a popular land-mark, or marked with huge signs. Both bakeries are ‘off the beaten path’ and many of their customers have searched them out because word of mouth has spread news about their products.

As can be imagined, larger, more prominent locations are more expensive and, put simply, mom-and-pop style bakeries cannot afford the prime loca-tions, the big signs, or fancy advertise-ments that many of the chain bakeries can.

One of the biggest blockades to these privately owned bakeries is the existence, and domination, of chain bakeries – especially those associated with chaebol businesses. “Chaebol” is the term used in Korea to describe a form of business conglomeration that is run by members of the same family. For example, the CEO of Hotel Shilla is the daughter of Samsung Electronics Chairman and the daughter of the Hyundai Motor Group Chairman is an adviser at the Innocean company.

These familial ties within and between huge companies, including Lotte and Shinsegae, mean that there is a lot of money available to be ‘played’ with and the concern is that a chaebol family member may decide to open a bakery as a ‘fun hobby’ but with major conse-quences to the small, mom-and-pop bakeries. One specific example of this is the Fauchon bakery run by Chang Seon-yoon, the granddaughter of Lotte Group Chairman, Shin Kyuk-ho. With the help and the support of the Lotte Group, the Fauchon bakery has access to more financial backing, as well as prime locations.

Independent bakers often provide a range of savoury breads that are hard to find at chain bakeries. Photo by Mary Rager.

In recent months, the Korean govern-ment has applied sanctions to large companies to help promote the small, mom-and-pop businesses. The compul-sory closing of stores, such as Lotte Mart and E-Mart, is an attempt by the government to help restore the Korean economy to its booming state and these restrictions are starting to spread beyond large grocery stores and into the bakery sector.

Due to growing pressure on chaebol bakeries, such as Fauchon, some corpo-rations have shut down their subsidiary businesses. However, many of the chaebol corporations own, operate, and rake in money from bakeries inside their own stores – a convenient location for shoppers – and are able to use their networks of stores to gain the upper hand in the bakery market.

Taking the time to find A La Papa or Le Escargot will not only benefit your taste buds and tummy; your business will support a novelty on the island and a privately-owned business. Ask around, go with a friend, do whatever you have to do to check out these bakeries, but do yourself and your community a favor – go local.
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