Artesana Bakery: a love story

Arte + Sano (Healthy Art) is the name of the business that Kelbert Bortone and Mariana Gonzalez, two Venezuelans immigrants, started three years ago. What began as a bicycle delivery of a few loaves of bread and cakes is now a thriving business that currently sells over 150 organic loaves of bread per day to their many, many clients.

Many of you have seen Kelbert walking through Cuenca with a basket full of all kinds of bread. You have seen him riding his bike delivering orders, or in Ferias and Minimarkets. Many of you have heard about Mariana, his wife, the one in charge of baking the “best bread in Cuenca”, according to their customers.

When I asked them to describe the secret of their success as a baker, vendor, as immigrants; they started talking about quality, punctuality, trust, and innovation. However, once you spend time with them it is easy to notice that the secret of their success is love. In all its forms.

If you ask Kelbert about his wife he would say: “She is the baker, she is like the best half of the team”.

-Mariana: “I always say Kelbert is the best vendor in the world”

-Kelbert: “It is easy to sell good bread”

Kelbert and Mariana came to Cuenca three years ago, with their son Sebastian (13 years old) and their daughter Samantha (11 years old). Mariana studied artisanal bakery in Margarita Island, Venezuela. In 2015, due to the political and economic situation in the country, they decided to move to Cuenca.

“We started with a small oven in our apartment.  Mariana baked and I walked about selling the bread, it was very hard, but we always wanted to have a business at home and we are confident that we would do it,” says Bortone.

Tuesday to Sunday, Mariana and Kelbert wake up at 4 a.m; to prepare the dough, and begin baking the days offerings. “People say that practice makes the teacher and we have worked 15 hours a day, every day, for nearly three years. We have perfected our dough recipes to account for weather and altitude. We are now able to make many kinds of bread and cakes,” says Gonzalez.

This family business offers 30 different kinds of bread, whole grain bread, cinnamon bread, baguettes, anise bread, with garlic and Romero olive oil, yogurt cakes with lemon, orange, carrot cake.

“Our bread is a mixture of what we knew in Venezuela, what we learned in Ecuador and what our clients ask us. I describe the brand as Delight in Bread,” says Gonzalez.

Artesana products do not have additive or preservatives, that’s why they decided to name their business, Healthy Art. “ Our commitment to using organic products is appreciated by our many customers who buy our bread,” says Mariana.

Artesana offers a customized service. “We are artisans. We want a real connection with the customer, that the customer is happy and pays the right price for a handmade bread, “said Kelbert.

This is an exclusive and personalized bakery. “Foreigners who do not know our Venezuelan culture love the experience,” says Kelbert. The bread order can be ordered through e-mail, WhatsApp, website or phone and customers look for the bread they ordered at Fairs where Kelbert is regularly or request a delivery service. In his future projects are opening a bakery, with tables and chairs where diners can sit and enjoy the bread with coffee or chocolate.

We are tired but blessed by work.” Our best reward is the gratitude and happiness of our customers. This is our story, a love story “says Gonzalez.

Loaf & Fishes

“We started selling our bread and cakes at the now-shuttered Bayou Café, then at Commun Grounds, and Puertas del Sol. This is how we started focusing on the needs of the international community. It is here that we met Lenny McIntosh,” says Bortone.

In their initial conversation, Kelbert said to Lenny “Who would have thought I would be speaking English and selling bread to Gringos in Ecuador?” Lenny replied, “Who would have thought I would be in Ecuador speaking Spanish and selling fish to Cuencanos?”

They combined their businesses into  Loaves and Fishes,  to offer quality baked goods and premium fish and lamb products to the Cuenca community through an online store.