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108-year-old Norfolk bakery working to keep nostalgic eatery alive

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Posted at 2:08 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-24 20:17:42-04

NORFOLK, Va. - The French Bakery & Delicatessen in the Riverview section of Norfolk is nothing short of a treasure.

"My grandfather started this in 1912 - 108 years ago," said current owner George Habib.

Now Habib is the lone baker, working 18- to 20-hour days to keep his family's bakery and deli alive.

"Now I am the last man standing. My brother was supposed to be after me, but he died three years ago, right in the back by the oven," Habib explained.

His family's multi-generational business is now in crisis due to coronavirus.

"Business went to zero," Habib said. "I had one day where total daily sales were like $18. I mean, how do you pay someone when you can't even pay yourself?"

But Habib is mustering on with a mission: to keep the business near and dear to his heart thriving.

"I am doing the best I can. It's hard especially to compete with big businesses," Habib said.

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Before March, customers would flock in for his French horns and baguettes made in a century-old brick oven or his famous piled-high pastrami sandwiches.

"Then we have orange donuts, eclairs, pork sandwiches and European buttercream cakes that nobody around here makes," he said.

Those delectable deli sandwiches and French delights are getting even harder to create with a strained supply chain adding even more stress.

Related: Community keeps the dough rolling at 32-year-old Virginia Beach bakery during pandemic

"We can hardly get anything," Habib said. "They cut me down to one case of pastrami a week. I mean, how can we live off that?"

As the stay-at-home order is slowly easing, Habib hopes the community will come out for a bite to eat as he works to keep a 108-year-old legacy alive.

"If I have no community, I have no business, which means we are out of business," Habib said.

You can visit the French Bakery & Delicatessen at 4108 Granby Street in Norfolk.

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