When finalizing the details for the sale of Louis Swiss Bakery, owner Felix Tornare agreed that buyers could keep the original sign from his father’s Swiss bakery for as long as they kept the name.
Roaring Fork Valley customers will be relieved to know that the name – along with the concept and menu items – will largely remain the same under new owners, Andrew Helsley and Jill Soffer.
“The main thing was that they were local,” said Tornare. “They were local and wanted to keep the staff and wanted it to stay the same. … It was very important to my wife and me that we pass it on to people who wanted to do the same. “
Helsley, Executive Chef of Mountain Food and Beverage at Aspen Skiing Co., and business partner Soffer, a climate philanthropist and fan of biscuits and croissants, officially take over Louis Swiss Bakery on August 1st. Tornare, who bought the bakery building in 1998, will remain the lessor of the 3,000 square meter facility in the Aspen Airport Business Center. A sale price was not disclosed.
Tornare has been with the bakery for 39.5 years and, as the sign indicates, is a family business for everyone. Tornare’s brother moved to Aspen in 1982 and bought the bakery. Both had learned the business growing up in their father’s Swiss bakery – his name was Louis.
“I wanted to help open the shop here and I never left,” he said.
Back then it was just the two brothers.
“Sometimes we didn’t have enough money for an apartment and stayed in the bakery,” says Tornare.
Her father eventually sold his Swiss bakery and moved to Aspen to support the business here. Over the years, the bakery has moved three times, expanded to more than 15 employees, and served at least 100 stores across western Colorado with wholesale bread, pastries, and baked goods.
“Our intention is to continue the tradition of the venerable Louis Swiss bakery,” said Helsley. “We have a great staff and we are very grateful for them and they will stay. And many of them have been with us for over 20 years. “
Tornare sells the bakery to do his other job as owner of the Milagro Ranch, which raises cattle that are processed for grass-fed beef. And he wants to spend more time just not working.
“I had two full-time jobs that I had in between,” said Tornare. “Life goes by too quickly.”
Helsley has been with SkiCo for 19 years, overseeing the opening of Sam’s and Elk Camp, managing the catering for major events such as Winter X Games and ArtCrush, and coordinating food and drink for numerous weddings and charitable causes.
“Jill and I talked about baking from the start,” he said. “She is a passionate home baker, and over the past five years I’ve developed my passion for baking bread. We both found out that Felix wanted to retire, so we got together and said, ‘Let’s do this.’ “
As a co-owner, Helsley will manage day-to-day operations and logistics. Soffer, who is “passionate about croissants, cookies and cakes,” will consider the business and creative side.
“We will continue to serve the part of the community that loves the bakery,” she said. “We’re not changing the basic menu at all. … It is a win for the community. But we need more cookies! This gives us the opportunity to make money in the business and be creative in an additional direction that is more part of our personal direction. “
Helsley and Soffer have plans for the future. This includes offering more artisanal bread, specialty biscuits, cakes and cakes, as well as expanding the retail business, which exploded last year thanks in part to the pandemic.
When the wholesale business dried up due to restaurant closings, retail operations ramped up, Tornare said. Wholesaling used to make up 90% of the business; today it is closer to 50%. This wholesale should pick up again with the reopening of restaurants, but Helsley and Soffer see an opportunity to take advantage of the development.
“The cafe is in the popular [AABC] with the people who line up at 5am, ”said Helsley. “We want to improve this space and maybe some indoor seating for a café and a center for them [AABC]. “
Tornare said the transition was bittersweet, similar to the chocolate used in the bakery’s popular croissants. (Other menu favorites include cherry turns, empanadas, and pupusas.) Over the nearly four decades of the Valley’s bakery history, community support has been constant.
“The biggest thing is that the locals carried us,” said Tornare. “It was the little ones who carried us. We appreciate them very much and look forward to seeing them come in. They made us what we are. “