Mary's Sweet Bread
10 Mark Street
Pawcatuck, CT 06379
(860) 599-0340

Mary's Sweet Bread

Mary Soares
Mary's Portuguese Sweet Bread
Daughter, Wife, Mother, Baker

Mary's story is one of triumph. Raised in a strict household, married at 16, and the mother of five children, she had no formal business training. Yet one rule of business she knew instinctively - do what you know. Mary knew how to bake bread. And not just ordinary bread, but a most delicious and versatile Portuguese sweet bread that sells itself with just one taste.

Mary's Story

Pawcatuck Connecticut is a scenic coastal village tucked snugly into the southeastern corner of Connecticut, along the banks of the Pawcatuck River near Long Island Sound. For centuries, a tight-knit community of commercial fishermen have lived in the village, and fished the waters of the Atlantic. Many of the these fishing families are of Portuguese descent, and to this day, the enclave retains many of the rich customs and traditions of the old country.

Mary Soares is the daughter of a Portuguese immigrant who worked hard as a commercial fisherman all his life. Mary's father maintained a strict home environment for his daughter, who was not permitted to engage in many of the social rituals common to high-school girls at the time. When she was 16, Mary's married a Stonington fisherman who had an excellent reputation as a skilled fisherman. Mary moved from the strict home of her father to an equally strict home of her husband, who forbid her to work outside the home, and severely limited her travel beyond her home.

Mary soon had five children of her own to care for, while her husband was at sea, often for weeks at a time during the long fishing season. At this time, her mother, also named Mary, began to teach her children the art of making traditional Portuguese Sweet Bread, a delicate, cake-like bread steeped in its own rich tradition.

Life Changes

As Mary perfected her grandmother's recipe, she often shared her bread with friends and strangers alike. It wasn't long before a local shop owner, impressed with the bread's quality, asked for a few loaves to sell in her store. Mary happily provided them, and the business was born. As Mary raised her five children, she was able to make a bit of money selling her bread to supplement the household income.

Mary soon became known about town as "The Bread Lady", and her new-found independence created tension in her marriage. Still, Mary honored her commitment to her husband out of loyalty to her father, who introduced them. She continued to bake her bread, and sell it wherever possible. As her children grew and left home, Mary's mother passed away, and Mary cared for her father until his death.

A New Beginning

Following her father's death, Mary divorced her husband of 34 years, and suddenly found herself in the unusual position of needing to support herself, and having no one depending on her. Once again, it was Mary's bread that buoyed her through this difficult time. She began in earnest to market the bread, at the same time learning about the world around her from which she had been shielded for so long. She learned to navigate the local highways, as she learned about marketing, product liability, nutrition labels, taxes, insurance, procurement, and time management. The challenges were many, but Mary persisted.

A call that changed everything

As the business grew, Mary began to look for help in the form of a business loan. She was put in touch with the Community Economic Development Fund (CEDF), an organization that provides loans and counseling for micro business owners in Connecticut. To her dismay, Mary was told that CEDF was only authorized to provide loans in 53 of the state's most economically disadvantaged towns, and Pawcatuck residents were not eligible.

Mary then contacted her State Representative, Diana Urban, to ask why CEDF couldn't make loans in Pawcatuck. That call eventually led to Representative Urban introducing legislation that would expand CEDF's reach to all towns throughout the state. As of October 1, 2003, it is now possible for qualified business owners to apply for loans, regardless of which Connecticut town they're located in. Mary's call was the catalyst for legislation that has benefited countless entrepreneurs across the State. On the day the legislation went into effect, Mary stood before a large crowd of press and business owners to deliver a speech that inspired many. Mary's transformation from housewife to business owner and advocate was complete.