Two million dollars is a sum many people would find hard to turn down.
Charlie and Antoinette meeting President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca
But Charlie and Antoinette Buttigieg, Maltese migrants to Canada who run a small bakery in Ontario, did just that.
The couple, who moved to Canada in the 1970s recently turned down two million dollars for the bakery where they serve pastizzi, timpana and qaghaq tal-ghasel, and for their house next door, from developers who wanted to tear it down and build condominiums.
“What are we going to do if we sell, we’re not young — but we’re not old — and this shop has been 40-years of our lives,” Mrs Buttigieg was quoted as saying in Canada’s National Post, which carried the story. “For me, it is not a job. I feel like the shop is more like our living room and our customers, they are like family.”
Before Mr and Mrs Buttigieg bought the Malta Bake Shop in 1983, it had been a Maltese-owned shoe store and, before that, in the 1920s, a Maltese grocery where many new Maltese migrants to Canada would congregate for a taste of home.
The story resonated with Maltese people who were awed at the couple’s dedication and resistance in the face of unchecked development.
“Do we want to build up condominiums in Toronto? For sure, by all means,” the couple’s eldest son Josef was quoted as saying. “But if you start tearing down places with a significant heritage — what do you stand for — do you just forget about the past?”
“The Malta Bake Shop — that building is 100-plus years old — and there is a story of a community there.”