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Susana López: “The rural environment is stress-free, something which is essential for being effective at work”

For the baker, working in a small town only brings advantages. Among the main ones, she says, is the beauty of the landscape, which relaxes you when you have to make decisions.

18 Jan 2021

For 30 years, Susana López, a member of the Richemont Club, has been in charge of the  Capileira family bakery, located in Capileira, a small town in the Alpujarra region, in Granada, with about 600 inhabitants. The establishment, included on the Spanish Panàtics Good Bread Route of 2018 and 2019, is an CAAE-Certified Organic Operator.

López, who has taken part in different courses, conferences and events related to the sector, acknowledges that working in a rural environment means adapting to the available resources, but believes that it is worth it because “here we can live, breathe and feel”.

1.- When and why did you take charge of Panadería Capileira? 

The bakery is a family business, we have been making bread every day for three generations, from my grandmother who was the pioneer, to my parents who continued along this path and now I have followed in their footsteps because of the passion I feel for this work. We are from Pórtugos, a small town in the Alpujarra region. It all started there. As the production that supplied this town was very small, the need to survive led my father to distribute bread through the neighbouring towns and later to set up a second bakery in Capileira, since it was the most central municipality of the entire distribution and the one with the highest daily traffic of people.

2.- What are the advantages and disadvantages for a baker of working in a rural environment with a small population?

The natural environment and the beauty of the landscape make you feel very relaxed when working and making decisions, this is essential on a day-to-day basis. In addition, the rural environment lacks stress, something essential to having a healthy mind and being effective at work.

3.- What are the keys to being popular and attracting people from other nearby towns?

Here, popularity is given to us by the land, since, thanks to the melting of the Sierra Nevada, we have something as important and fundamental in making bread as pure and crystalline water. We also have seasonal fruit and vegetables; this means we can take advantage of all our resources and imagination to make various sweets with fruits (plums, blackberries, apples, chestnuts, pisto empanadas, etc.). It is an endless array of products irrigated with the best water to produce a final product with the most exquisite flavour.

In this way, we take advantage of seasonal fruits to offer great variety, highlighting the difference that sets us apart. With the few resources that surround us and the desire to innovate every day, we continue raising our family while also working in a field we really enjoy. 

4.- Does having a bakery in a less populated area mean you need to reduce costs and adapt to the tastes of a very specific clientele? Or does it give you the freedom to be creative and experiment?

I have always said that a bakery allows you to experiment and discover yourself, since with a simple beet or cheese you can make exquisite bread, or a loaf of bread designed as a tribute to the typical Alpujarran dish that is made up of round cut potatoes “a lo pobre” accompanied by peppers and onion, a portion of sausage and another of blood sausage, Orza pork loin, a slice of ham and a fried egg. 

5.- Capileira is a family business. How many people are on the team at the moment? What is it like working as a family in a small town?

Currently, together with my partner Miguel Ángel and three colleagues, we do the daily work, although during the holidays I am also helped by my children, Yvonne and Amaro, who are learning the family trade. My colleague Diego and I are in charge of making the bread, Miguel Ángel is in charge of selling it and my two other colleagues help me with the typical sweets of the area and with the cleaning the bakery. The experience of working as a family is beautiful because you transmit all the knowledge and passion of this profession to the people you love the most, while they learn it with enthusiasm. In addition, it is a way of valuing the work of a mother who puts on the table the result of the efforts of each workday.

6.- With a small workforce. How is production organised, the orders, the opening hours, etc.?

Diego and I make bread every night. Miguel Ángel makes the shop’s distribution-sales rounds, and together we take care of all the administrative matters, we prepare open days for the public, and we have become a CAAE-Certified Organic Operator.

7.- Does being away from a city cause any problems when it comes to getting the supplies you need? Do you have to place larger orders or order in advance?

The fact of living 90 km from the nearest city, Granada, does not limit us in accessing our merchandise, since we work with companies that do distribution in all corners of our area. I think that it is important to give life to all those who support us, so we are not rendered helpless regarding procurement of our raw material.

8.- Do factors such as the weather influence the normal operation of the bakery?

Taking into account that we are 1,350 metres above sea level and the Sierra Nevada is right in front of Capileira, we have to adapt to harsh, cold winters and that means the fermentation of our breads takes more time. Nothing is an impediment if you adapt to the resources you have, we have learned that from our ancestors who, with hardly any resources, kept their minds active so as not to fall into famine and support those large families.

9.- What tips do you have for any colleagues who would like to set up shop in a village but haven’t done so yet?

Of course I encourage you to take the step, rural areas are healthier in all aspects: the neighbourhood you live in, the closeness with nature, the health in body and mind that gives us energy to live life with enthusiasm, the places to have a moment of isolation with oneself, the smell of wet earth that enters the lungs like a ray of life, contemplating the sky at night without the noise or lights of a big city. We have the very best out in in rural areas, and here we can live, breathe and feel… Go ahead and work in a rural area!