Croissants - and Joint Ventures - on the Rise

CROISSANTS have come to Warsaw and are a huge success. Every day - even a day when it hailed and the wind howled - the line is long outside the new bakery, a private joint venture between Poles and West Europeans.

The bakery opened in an old meat shop last month, with an investment of about $200,000 in new machines. Its 17 bakers, working around the clock six days a week, make 30,000 croissants, 15,000 rolls, and 1,200 baguettes a day. And it's all sold out by the end of the day.

Jerzy Smiechowski, a Polish partner together with his son Wojciech, is already thinking about expanding, he says, even though it was hard to get this one going.

``We have so many idiotic laws after 45 years of communism,'' he says in a tired voice. ``Thousands of documents were required. Our Western partners just shook their heads - they had never seen anything like it.''

It might be better now, he adds, after all the new laws that the Solidarity-led government has pushed through. Poland is a good investment, he says. Inflation has stopped, the currency is stable - but people are still afraid of the changes.

And for Westerners, Polish labor is cheap. Jerzy Smiechowski says his staff of around 25 people is paid very well, an average of 1 million zlotys a month (around $120).

Still, he admits, it's not so easy to make croissants under Polish conditions. For one thing, the flour is different from sack to sack. But it's not only the flour, Wojciech adds, saying he has already spent many nights in the bakery seeing to it that the work is done right.

``It's hard,'' he says with a sigh. ``Poles are not used to producing quality work all week long.''

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