Breaking Stereotypes

For almost ever, customers, even friends, have mispronounced my last name and the name that appears after "Bakery" in "Bakery Normand." The error has been to put the accent and emphasis on the last syllable, as in nor-MAND.  This would have been the proper pronunciation for my early ancestors, who were among the first settlers of the frontier town of Quebec. Established in 1608, Quebec became home to the Normand clan at an early date. One Jean Normand (born 1638) appears in a 1656 census of Quebec, and the name seems to have had a continuous presence there going forward. In 1908 my grandfather Ulric Osias Normand emigrated from Canada to the US through Vermont, eventually settling in Holyoke, Massachusetts. In his Declaration of Intention to become a US citizen, Ulric swore that "I am not an anarchist; I am not a polygamist nor a believer in the practice of polygamy; and it is my intention in good faith to become a citizen of the United States of America and to permanently reside therein; SO HELP ME GOD." He should have added that he intended for his heirs henceforth to pronounce his surname in a thoroughly American fashion, that being, with the accent on the first syllable, as in NOR-mand. And so it was-until his grandson decided to open a bakery.

The reasons for the change in emphasis have nothing to do with any intentions of mine. Rather, the use of my surname after the type of business I established, namely a bakery, instead of before it (as in Normand's Bakery or Norm's Bakery) created a need among people to overplay the exotic locution and express something foreign sounding. This made sense to folks because our bakery was foreign; and the choice to name it in this way followed the model of all the family bakeries where I trained in Germany-Bäckerei Gassen, Bäckerei Kaiser, and Bäckerei-Konditorei Stock, named after, respectively, the Gassen family, the Kaiser family, and the Stock family. Although I learned to bake in Germany, many of our products have their names and origins in many Western European lands, so, yes, our establishment did strike people as different. Also, placing the accent on the second syllable gave customers the sense that they too were part of a more unique and exclusive club, that they were in on a special secret, that their shopping experience had more caché. You might think that this would be good for business, but, in fact, I have always felt that it put a lot of people off. I think that vast segments of our town and surrounding communities have always felt that our product was strange and that our prices must be high; and who wouldn't if you heard us referred to as Bakery nor-MAND?

Now, segue back to my introductory photo. Folks, meet Jeff. Jeff is one of our morning regulars and he often arrived at the bakery in any number of interesting vehicles, depending on what project he's working on that day. Today he was driving a bucket-loader, and I can think of one 2-year-old named Jacob (also a devoted bakery fan) who would have been in heaven if he had come by an hour earlier today to see Jeff pull up to the Bakery in this rig.

I don't know about you, but I'm guessing that Jeff is not put off by the name of our bakery; in fact, he probably pronounces my last name correctly. But even if he didn't, he has not pigeon-holed us as "not his kind of bakery." Instead he's discovered some great morning pastries, especially his favorite-the Carrot Muffin, at a price that beats Dunkin' Doughnuts and MacDonald's. At $3.50 for the muffin and a large coffee, he probably wouldn't get much for that money at Starbucks. And on top of all that he gets a scratch -baked product made on premises by real people, and he gets friendly, personal service by my wife Patty that puts a smile on his face every time he leaves the store. Today he even offered to let Patty drive his rig, because, as he told her, it had an automatic transmission; Patty replied, "Thanks, but no thanks, I only drive stick!"

1 comment:

Ladylipstick said...

I remember when I worked there sometimes customers would 'correct' my pronunciation of the bakery name. I also have fond memories of the mechanics from Pleasant Street Motors coming in for coffee and a pastry every day- they were our own local version of Click and Clack!

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Bakery Normand
192 Main Street
Northampton, MA 01060

Tuesday to Saturday, 7:30am-5:30pm

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