By Janet Goetze
For the Hollywood Star News
Greg Mistell believes business owners should support the people and groups working for positive change in their communities.
Mistell, who started the Fleur De Lis Bakery & Cafe with his wife, Lisa, nine years ago, said business people have little time for volunteer work themselves especially ones like himself, with a 6-year-old and a puppy at home when he winds up his long day.
“Who changes things?” he asked rhetorically in his unadorned office across 40th Avenue from Fleur De Lis, 3930 N.E. Hancock St. “These are people who go out trying to change things to help people who need help. It’s important that we support them.”
He especially believes in assisting school events with donated lunch or baked goods or providing the after-hours restaurant space for fund-raising events.
“You’d be pretty unaware if you didn’t know that teachers, the brain trust for our kids, are underpaid,” he said. “So it’s important to support them and the schools.”
Mistell, 64, who lives within walking distance of the bakery, arrived in Portland in 1984 when he was recruited to manage Delphina’s Bakery.
His interest in baking started early in life. He grew up in Detroit with a Polish grandmother who baked according to her family’s traditions. His mother, who did the fancy cooking for the family, also was a baker. His father enjoyed baking sweets and, interestingly enough, making barbecue.
Mistell learned to bake bread at home, and after he left Eastern Michigan University a few credits short of a degree, he hoped to become a baker. However, no one would hire a commercial novice. He had spent summer vacations working on auto assembly lines. He went on to fighting forest fires, working in a cannery, building cabinets and working in a grocery store after leaving Michigan for California, Alaska and Washington.
In Seattle, he landed a job with a natural foods grocery because of past grocery experience. The owner opened a second store where an experienced baker was making cookies and other sweet items with whole-grain flours.
Mistell learned certain techniques from the baker, named Russ. One day, Russ asked, “Can you bake bread?”
That’s when Mistell began the career he had wanted after college. Several months later, he took a second job with a baker trained in France, adding croissants and puff pastry to his repertoire. He moved on to another bakery, where Al Edelman, one of the founders of Delphina’s, hired him to manage the Portland business. Eventually, Mistell and two investors bought out the founders; and Mistell later opened the Pearl Bakery.
Then, as the new millennium arrived, his first marriage ended and, as he explained, “The attorneys took over. I was bankrupt, with no bakeries.”
He had been chairman of the Hollywood Farmers Market board, but he resigned to become the market manager for two years.
After he and Lisa married, they started Fleur De Lis. They built the business together over long hours for more than two years. When their son was born, he joined Lisa’s son from her former marriage and Mistell’s three daughters from his first marriage.
The bakery, which supplies bread and other baked goods to a number of coffee shops and restaurants, added the cafe after a few years. The business continues the Mistells’ philosophy of supporting the community where they live and work.
Fleur De Lis sends its day-old artisan bread to the Hollywood Senior Center. During the holidays, the cafe has a senior “giving tree,” which patrons have generously supported. After the annual Veterans Day parade, at least a dozen homeless veterans, identified by the Mistells’ friend who works with the homeless, are invited for breakfast at the cafe.
“They have served this country with all these strengths,” Mistell said. “I don’t know the solution for homelessness, but homeless people should eat.”