Belka brothers immigrated to find opportunities, more time for family
Marek, Gregor Belka,
Originally from Poland, brothers Marek and Gregor Belka lend their distinctive international flare to Hilton Head Island's cultural melting pot.
The Belkas are in good company; a little more than 15 percent of Hilton Head Island's residents were born in other countries, according to the United States Census Bureau.
For younger brother, Gregor, who moved to Hilton Head Island in 1989, new opportunities – and a desire to escape a communist regime – were key factors in his decision to move to the United States.
“My story is no different than any other immigrant,” he said. “At that time, Poland was a communist country, so my wife and I wanted to leave the communist regime and come to the land of opportunity.”
Gregor Belka currently works as a salesman with Porsche of Hilton Head and, despite expressing concern over what he sees as a recent trend toward too much government regulation, he loves life in the United States, and Hilton Head in particular.
“I love pretty much everything about the United States,” he said. “I love the country, particularly the freedom and opportunity. The country still is a phenomenal country, very peaceful – and I live in one of the most beautiful places in America.”
With the country and the island receiving such a glowing endorsement from Gregor, it's easy to understand how his older brother, Marek, and his family ended up on Hilton Head Island in 2006. Unlike Gregor, Marek's motivation for immigrating was less about finding opportunities as it was about finding more time to spend with his family.
“I love to sail and I love to fish,” Marek said. “I was in the corporate life in Poland, so I thought when I moved here, I would be able to live a less crazy life ... and maybe have a family business, rather than traveling around Europe doing my corporate business stuff. Being closer to my family was my main goal.”
The brothers started a commercial furnishings business together, supplying restaurants, hotels and other businesses with furniture and other supplies. The business struggled to gain footing during the economic downturn and eventually went under. However, that wasn't about to stop Marek from achieving his dream of owning a family business. In 2012, when a friend tipped him off about a charming little bakery that had just hit the market, he knew he'd finally found the right business opportunity for his family.
“I always loved to bake and cook – and I love coffee – and actually I was thinking about opening a coffee place in 2012,” Marek said. “A friend of mine told me that a bakery was on the market for sale. I went to see what the bakery looked like and it seemed like a great opportunity for a family business.”
The French Bakery – located at 430 William Hilton Parkway, Suite 201C, in the Pineland Station Mall – has done very well under Marek ownership. The bakery supplies baked goods to a wide variety of local businesses, including several restaurants, and is poised to keep on growing.
“We plan to grow and continue serving the community,” Marek said.
For more information on The French Bakery and Courtyard Cafe, call 843-342-5420.