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An enduring neighbourhood facility at the heart of the city, then and now

Patricia and Anton de Heer from Van der Heyden confectioners on Mariniersweg talk about life in the reconstruction district where they work and have lived together for years. It’s also where Patricia grew up.

An enduring neighbourhood facility at the heart of the city, then and now

People person

They’re had at work in the Van der Heyden confectioners on Mariniersweg. Marzipan cakes are ready for the ‘finishing touch’ as a delicious-looking filling is added to other pastries. It makes your mouth water. Noticing this, Patricia de Heer offers a slice of cake with the coffee. She and her husband Anton own the bakery. While Anton continues making cakes, she does the talking. “I’m a people’s person, and that’s what you have to be,” she adds. “The bakery fulfils a function in the Hoogkwartier neighbourhood, and so you always make time for a chat. You know the people.”

Ringing tram

Patricia knows not only the people but also the neighbourhood very well. She grew up during the 1970s and ’80s on Sint-Janstraat, a side street off Hoogstraat. From her window she could hear the tram sounding its bell on Oostplein. She lived with her parents and brother on the first floor, and her grandparents lived on the third floor, which was really fun. Life was fine in this neighbourhood. She smiles: “Years later when my grandparents moved out, I bought the house. Our daughter was born there.”

Kick the can on Hoogstraat

She played a lot outdoors, especially at the timber fort on Achterklooster. “I remember the barbed wire to keep out dogs. Once my brother fell against it.” Patricia continues: “With the neighbour boy we loved to play ‘kick the can’ on Sundays, because there were fewer cars. It was quite busy there, even during the daytime.” She was allowed to travel on the tram with her father, who was a driver with the RET, the public transport company in Rotterdam. She remembers the beautiful coin holders in the tram. “My father took them home every day, and I loved to play with them. He kept one, and now my daughter plays with it too. Isn’t that great?”

Bakery as a dating venue?

As a child she used to go shopping with her mother in the neighbourhood. Getting tasty salads and nuts at Huib van de Krans Delicatessen, or a slice of sausage from the butcher, or a cake at VD Meer & Schoep, where her mother worked. “That’s where she met my father. He always came to the shop, and so he eventually asked her out.” Patricia laughs. “My mother and bakeries!” In fact, she met her own husband through the same combination. “My mother met an old friend who worked at the Van der Heyden confectioners. The friend asked my mother for my telephone number on behalf of her boss. I thought that ‘boss’ meant Anton’s mother, and that maybe the baker’s wife wanted me to come and work there. But it turned out to be for Anton himself. He’d seen me in the gym here on the roof and fancied me, haha!”

Unexpected spaces

At the time, Anton was already working at the confectioners on Mariniersweg. Back then, the other branch of Van der Heyden, located in Aert van Nesstraat, did not have a production space. Anton, who just pops by to see if everything is okay, adds: “That’s the surprising thing about this small shop. Right behind us here is a large space where we make all the bread and confectionary. We’ve got the perfect location.” Patricia nods. “Just like the courtyard behind the bakery. People are always surprised when I say there’s a car park behind the shop. You’ll find a space here even on Saturday!” As far as that’s concerned, they think all the attention for the post-war reconstruction area is great. “For some years there was less going on in the neighbourhood, but it’s getting livelier all the time now. More of a buzz around these days. Streets are being spruced up, and that’s great to see.” She smiles, but adds in a serious vain. “As far as we’re concerned, it’s now time they tackled Mariniersweg.”

Hidden secrets

For they’ve noticed that not everybody enjoys strolling along Mariniersweg. “Recently we won a prize for the best speculoos biscuits in Zuid-Holland, and a customer came into the shop specially to buy some. He asked if the shop was open all that long? When I told him we’d been here for more than twenty years, his jaw dropped. He lived close to Jonker Fransstraat.” She chortled. On the other hand, she had the same feeling on the Erasmus Tour through Rotterdam during the wedding of Patricia’s brother. It was the first time they saw the proverb of Erasmus, ‘All the world is your fatherland’, on the façade of the library. That building isn’t all that far from their own shop, Patricia admits: “People don’t look sideways too often; they look straight ahead. I know that feeling. So paying closer attention to your surroundings is good. After all, we’ve got a fine city.”

Time for a chat

Luckily for the couple, plenty of people do find their way to the bakery. Anton: “It’s like a newspaper gossip column here,” he jokes: “Although I don’t know all the names. But if we’re talking about the woman with the dog, for example, then I know who we’re talking about.” His wife adds: “And the same people I used to meet with my mother now come into the shop.” She knows the people, and knows how they’re doing. “I do exactly the same thing with my daughter today that my mother used to do with me,” Patricia concludes. “Buying things in the local shops and stopping for a friendly chat here and there. That’s what it’s about.”

The story of
Patricia en Anton de Heer van Bakkerij Van der Heyden