Our Origin Story
Robaire's Bakery was started by our amazing founders, Robaire and Dina Desormes. The couple are originally from a small town in France and made the long journey to America in 1961. When Dina was a child, her parents made the brave decision to shelter two American pilots that were downed during World War 2. In thanks for their courageous actions, the pilots then sponsored the family's journey to America. Dina's parents first traveled there on their own since Robaire was fighting in the Algerian war at the time. Then the couple and their young son Gerard moved to America a year after Dina's parents.
The journey to America was not as miraculous as they were first led to believe. To get to America they first had to travel by boat. It took seven nauseating days. Dina recalls having to cling to ropes as they walked through the passages just so they didn't fall over. They first docked in Halifax, Canada. In the chill of the February air, they got to see the huge glaciers. The boat ride finally finished at Ellis Island in New York; but their journey was just beginning. They had to get to Michigan to join Dina's parents. To do this they needed to get a ride to the train station. They hailed a taxi, began loading their luggage and told the driver where they needed to go. He told them it would be $400. The couple may have been foreign but they were not stupid. They instead found a bus stop and got a much more affordable ride at $2.
One of the pilots that Dina's family sheltered was from Saginaw, Michigan. He was the one that advised Dina's parents to move to Mount Pleasant, since it was a quiet town at the time. It was not the couples plan to start a bakery when they first moved here. In fact, they had no clue what they were going to do! They had no money and neither Robaire nor Dina could speak a word of English. However, Robaire was a jack of all trades so they knew they could make it work. Since Robaire had experience in baking, he took up a job in the kitchen at Central Michigan University. Even though he could not speak English when he first arrived, he picked it up fast. His outgoing nature and dedication even got him a five cent raise at the university (A very big deal for the couple at the time!) Then, when the local convenience store Giant Way was looking for a bakery to be a part of their business, the couple jumped at the opportunity. This was where Robaire's bakery was born.
In Dina's words, "We were young and crazy back then. Though I think you have to be to make a big change like that." and what a big change it was. Dina struggled at first. She missed her life in France. One where they didn't have to worry about having health insurance, where the food didn't make her stomach hurt, and where people didn't make fun of the way she pronounced custard. To try and acclimate better, she decided to go to CMU and take some classes; since she had already had a couple years of college before she moved to America. Dina marveled at how large the class size was. It was a big difference compared to back home. She enjoyed her English class and the teacher said her writing was impeccable. Then her teacher asked her to read her paper in front of the class. By the time she sat back down, she was shaking and had tears in her eyes. While she may have been good at writing English, speaking it was a different matter entirely.
Even though her and Robaire took some time to get accustomed to their new life, they were flourishing. Robaire's Bakery was booming inside the convenience store. Everything was going great until the Giant Way could no longer have them. They were expected to move out on December 31st and couldn't move into their new location until January 1st. So, in one cold winter night, they moved their entire bakery and managed to open the very next day. Business was going so well at their new location they had even decided to open a new location in Midland a few years later!
Thirty years and a couple locations later, Robaire was diagnosed with lung cancer. Unfortunately the prognosis was not good but he insisted on one thing. After all the wonderful things that America provided him; he wanted to die an American citizen. This was not as simple as it may seem. The immigration office was all the way in Detroit, and Robaire was bed ridden. This meant that a man from the immigration office had to come from Detroit to give him the test, and an administrative judge came from Bay City to make it official. So with him laying in bed surrounded by officials, his family, and the American flag, Robaire Desormes became an official citizen of the United States of America.
Not long after Robaire passed away, Dina and Gerard took the test to be citizens as well. Dina recalls being the only person in the room not jumping up and down with excitement. It was not that she was not happy to be an American citizen, but it was renouncing herself as French that brought tears to her eyes. Gerard on the other hand was very excited. Dina recalls a time when he was in kindergarten and the kids had teased him for being French. He had stomped his foot and insisted he was an American boy. But now that he was officially an American there was something he was dying to do. That very day they both drove over the bridge to Canada. Upon their return, the border security asked them to announce their nationality. They both began to laugh as they announced they were American.
Today, Robaire's Bakery is one of the top bakeries in Mount Pleasant. If you were to come in you may even see Dina running around making sure the bakery runs in top shape. If you try any of our delicious treats you will be able to taste the love that goes into every bite. If you have never been, we hope to see you soon!