Old Europe Pastries is serving up happiness

November 2, 2022

There was no way that I thought what we started as small entrepreneurs and immigrants here in the United States would turn into the staple that is Old Europe Pastries within Asheville,” says owner Melinda Vetro. “And for that, I am both proud and amazed at the dedication of our customers over the years.”

The woman-owned pastry shop has been in business since 1994 and there’s no end in sight. Old Europe Pastries has become a staple in Downtown Asheville and their delicious pastries are sought after. 

Check out our full Q&A with Melinda below…

Tell us about your business and the role you play in it. 

The business that I own is called Old Europe Pastries. It’s a European-inspired coffee shop and bakery in the heart of downtown. We open early and close late to be able to serve customers all day. We offer a variety of cakes, pastries, and desserts; some are gluten-free and vegan as well.  Everything that we make is made in-house and served daily.  I am the owner which means I do all of the tasks, there is no task that I don’t take part in as it is my business and all jobs are important. I still have a large role within the production of cakes and pastries for customers.

What’s a little-known fact or trivia about your business?

A little-known fact about our business is that we are woman-owned and operated by the original owner/proprietor of the business, me.  My late husband and I started the business in 1994 in the Grove Arcade and now reside on Broadway Street.  He passed 10 years ago, but I have carried on the business.

How has your company grown over the years?

It has grown exponentially.  There was no way that I thought what we started as small entrepreneurs and immigrants here in the United States would turn into the staple that is Old Europe within Asheville.  And for that I am both proud and amazed at the dedication of our customers over the years.

Where did your career find its start? How did you get involved with your company?

I learned how to bake pastries and cakes in Hungary when I was young, think of a technical high school, and then when I was 21 my husband and I immigrated to the United States.  He saw the kind of desserts I was capable of making and said, “That’s it!  That’s what we’ll do!  We’ll open a bakery!”  We were living in Minnesota at the time and decided to go on a road trip of the United States to find where we should settle down and build our business.  After the 2nd trip, we decided on Asheville and arrived in 1993.  The first edition of Old Europe was brought to life in 1994

What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?

The biggest hurdle to overcome has just been learning how to be a successful business owner.  Zoltan, my late husband, always handled the business aspect and the finances of the company.  When he passed, it was now on me to learn, adapt, and carry on with my new role as full business owner.  I definitely had my ups and downs, and am still always learning but am much more confident in my abilities as a business owner.

Was there ever a time you felt like you had to completely start over?

Yes, when we did have to start over.  The location that we had at the corner of Lexington and Walnut (where Crave currently is) was too big of a venture for us to move into, and it did not end well.  It was at that point that I had to pull myself up by my bootstraps and make something happen.  I sold jewelry, clothes, a car, everything I had to keep the business alive.  We moved into the location at 13 Broadway, a fraction of the size, and just focused on the basics of what we knew we could accomplish and slowly built ourselves back up.  It was a learning experience that taught me a lot about perseverance and what I am capable of.

How has you/your company’s idea of success transformed?

Success is a fluid way to describe the journey of the business.  At points, success is, “we just have to make it to the next day” or “we made it through a hard week!” All the way too, we are at a level of business and revenue where we have the ability to buy a building that is 6 times the size of what we are currently operating out of and offer things that we never have thought of before.  So I would say success changes each day, but overall I am happy with where we are now as a business and a company and what we are able to offer customers each and every day.

The greatest business advice you’ve been given?

The greatest business advice I have been given is “Why not?”  Why can’t we do that? Why can’t we try that idea, cake, event, anything.  There is nothing holding us back from trying something we have not done before.  The worst that can happen is it doesn’t turn out exactly how we thought it would.  But it will possibly show us something that we wouldn’t know before.

What is most important to you/your company now?

The most important thing to me is the same it always has been, that customers leave happy.  If everyone does their job, this is the goal.  It is the bakers job to make delicious desserts, the barista’s job to make stellar coffee and sell the desserts and the customers will leave happy.  I love hearing how my desserts made people feel and the happiness that it brought them.  Knowing that I can be a small part of someone’s happiness for the day is why I do what I do.

What do you see as your company’s legacy?

Our legacy is that no matter how long it has been since you have visited us or if it is your first time, that you leave satisfied and with the sense that the things you were sold were made with care and love

What’s on the horizon?

Currently, we are in the renovation process of our newest move.  Our lease is up on our current location, so in 2021, we purchased the building at 18 Broadway, formerly The Mocking Crow.  Since then we have had to do a total gut renovation job and are looking at being open to the public in November of 2022.  We will be able to offer seating again for our customers and have a wider selection of options for people to choose from as well.

What else would you like to share?

Thank you.  Thank you for supporting me, my business, my family, my employees, everything over the past 27 years. I never thought that this is where my life would be when I was a young child in Hungary. Asheville has been my home for 25 years and I love it for the opportunity and gift it has given me.