Fika is a Swedish tradition that’s quite hard to define.
Basically, it means to have a coffee. But in Swedish culture, it’s more about the concept of taking time out for your family, friends and colleagues to relax and chat – often over a hot drink and something baked.
In 2020, Inner West Swedish Baker spread the joy of Fika by delivering traditional Swedish sweets, savouries and bread to local households in Melbourne’s west.
The bakery was born out of a COVID pivot. Swedish-born Geeti Persson used to own an event catering company, but her whole business closed abruptly on unlucky Friday 13th March 2020 as event after the event got cancelled due to COVID-19.
It was a devastating blow.
But she had no time to wallow as she quickly had to decide what to do next, particularly as she had international students working for her with no other financial support.
Literally, over a weekend, she and her staff turned one of her food trucks into a bakery.
“I was renovating my house at the time and had to dig through boxes and boxes of books to track down my handwritten recipes from a cafe that I owned in Sweden,” laughs Geeti. “As you can imagine, they were in the very last box I looked!”
A friend who worked in social media helped Geeti build and promote her Facebook page and word spread through the inner west as locked down families found comfort in their homes with a kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon bun).
The business quickly outgrew its food truck bakery conversion and they moved into a solar-powered production bakery in Yarraville recently vacated by Cobb Lane Bakery in late 2020.
Since then they have had the opportunity to learn from one of the best sourdough bakers in Melbourne, Michael James, the former owner and baker at Tivoli Road Bakery in South Yarra.
Inner West Swedish Baker still does home deliveries and holds a pop-up shop in front of its production bakery every Saturday morning, as well as selling regularly at farmers markets. They can move up to 500 loaves of bread and 400 of their bestselling kanelbullar in a week!
The next exciting plan for the business is a permanent shopfront at 549a Barkly Street, West Footscray.
“I have visions of a Scandinavian bakery, with Swedish crispbreads (knäckebröd) hanging decoratively from the ceiling and an outdoor parklet where people can relax and make time for Fika,” smiles Geeti.
The prospective cafe, to be still named Inner West Swedish Baker, will sell the full range of Geeti’s bakery products, such as danishes, galettes and Swedish rye bread plus serve smörgås – open sandwiches popular in Sweden – and Small Batch coffee from a local roastery in North Melbourne.
Look out for the ‘open’ sign in Autumn 2021!