As pandemic takes bite of Paczki sales, beer store offers boozy take on tradition

Paczki Day is usually the busiest day for Blak's Bakery in Windsor, serving its highly anticipated signature doughnut, but the pandemic took a bite out of some of its sales this year.

Windsorites consumed their Paczki in doughnut and beer form this year

Staff at Blak's Bakery were busy working on Tuesday. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Paczki Day is usually the busiest day for Blak's Bakery in Windsor, serving its highly anticipated signature doughnut, but the pandemic took a bite out of some of its sales this year.

In an effort to boost business, Craft Heads Brewing Company partnered up with the bakery and created a new Paczki beer, which it sold with the doughnut. 

"Our sales are way down from last year," said Blak's Bakery owner Valerie Blak-Gill.

"Even though we were busier on the days leading up to Packzi Day because we started making them last Thursday. We tried to spread it out over five days so we wouldn't have a lot of people in here. So those days were busier, but today and yesterday were not what they normally are,' she said.

Customers were picking up Paczki doughnuts and beer at Craft Heads Brewery. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

She anticipated the slower business. Her bakery made only half the amount of doughnuts of what they usually make.

It also didn't take in orders this year. Instead, customers purchased pre-packaged doughnuts on a first-come, first-serve basis.

While the bakery was fully staffed, Blak-Gill said she usually has 30 more people helping her, including her family from out of town.

Blak's Bakery owner, Valerie Blak-Gill, says she's sad she couldn't spend the day with her family from out of town who usually pay a visit and help bake and serve on Paczki Day. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

"It's kind of sad," she said. "My sisters came on a regular basis to Windsor, and now I haven't seen either one in over a year. So it's not great."

Despite not being able to celebrate the day like she normally would, she said she's happy with the support she's been getting from the community.

People were lined up on Tuesday afternoon ready to buy boxes of the doughnuts.

Jason Barsotta of Craft Heads Brewery Company is pictured pouring a Paczki flavoured beer. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Blak-Gill said she was also brewing with excitement over a new collaboration with another local business, Craft Heads Brewing Company.

In addition to selling the bakery's Paczki doughnuts, the brewery created a new Packzi beer this year and sold a "countless" amount through pick-up and home delivery.

The company approached the bakery about a month ago with the idea.

"We'd only seen one other brewery in Michigan kind of attempt something with Paczki in their beer. So we just kind of felt that it was appropriate that if anyone was going to try it, then [we] might as well go for it," said Jason Barsotta of Craft Heads Brewing Company.

People were lined up outside of Blak's Bakery on Tuesday afternoon to pick up Paczki doughnuts. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

He said the company sold out all four full tanks of the beer it made, adding that it's helped boost sales during a time where business runs slower.

"It definitely helped us out, especially the restaurant alcohol business during January, dry January," Barsotta said.

He also said that the partnership has helped the bakery with selling more doughnuts and offers an additional hand when Blak-Gill's family can't be there.

Craft Heads Brewing Company collaborated with Blak's Bakery to create Paczki beer. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

The company hopes to make more Packzi beer next year given its popularity. It also hopes to collaborate with other local businesses in the future.

"We got so much support for this, why not do it with with other local businesses" Barsotta said.


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