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March 28, 2020

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German couple’s bakery business smooth as butter despite virus fears

UWE Brutzer runs a bakery in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province. He speaks Chinese as natively as his locally known name — Wu Zhengrong.

Wu is one of the most frequently seen family names in China, and Zhengrong means “thriving” — a typical wish among Chinese people.

His Bach’s Bakery is tucked away in a secluded alley. For a non-frequent customer, it is not an easy find. Different from other bakeries, half of the employees in Wu’s store are deaf-mute people.

Since its reopening in February, Wu has been even busier than before.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, dine-in service was suspended and doors shut, leaving customers to order takeaway through a window.

“Everyone wears a mask, so my employees can’t read customers’ lips,” Wu said. As a result, he has to take the responsibilities of reception and cashier.

But the local government has been very supportive and sent disinfectant and alcohol on the reopening day.

As fewer customers showed up during the epidemic, Wu had to reduce bread and cakes they made for each day. As the only person who could hear the timer, he had to set the alarm — up to seven alarms sometimes — and saw to it each batch of bread was perfect.

“Business was so much better than I had expected. Though customers dropped in number, they bought more,” Wu said. “I’m really grateful for my dear customers at this special time.”

He added: “In a few more days, I will have been living in Changsha for 18 years.”

Back in 2002, Wu and his wife Dorothee Brutzer, who also has a beautiful Chinese name — Du Xuehui — arrived in Changsha for a deaf-mute children assistance project funded by a German civil charity organization.

The situation for hearing-impaired children in China has improved over the years. More public funding has been invested to assist their studies.

“I’m pleased to witness the progress,” he said.

However, the group’s employment is still a difficult issue. In 2011, Bach’s Bakery opened. The couple invited a German baker to train deaf-mute people.

Currently, the six deaf-mute employees are the backbone of Wu’s bakery.

“They have proved to be very capable of their work,” Wu said.

Over the past 18 years, the couple has helped nearly 500 people with disabilities and trained 20 deaf-mute bakers to work for other bakeries.

The couple flew to Thailand for the Lunar New Year. But their hearts were with their employees after they learned about the epidemic, and they flew back as soon as they could.

They went through the 2003 SARS epidemic in China. “We have seen the decisive and effective actions that the Chinese government took during SARS and COVID-19. China is a safe place to stay.”

March 5 was Wu’s 50th birthday. He and his fellow employees made a big German-style cake with “50” on it. He received masks from his Chinese friends. The provincial government officials visited him to send regards.

“We will not leave China. Maybe when we are very, very old, we will consider going back. But for now, I still have many plans to realize,” Wu said.


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