While 'Mimi and Valerie' may not sound like names for fierce business adversaries, the arrival of a Patisserie Valerie – part of a UK-wide chain that's considering a stock market flotation – could shake things up for Belfast-based Patisserie Mimi.
Mimi was established on High Street in Belfast last year by Beannchor, the company which owns the Merchant Hotel and dozens of pubs around Belfast and Co Down. It's next to another Beannchor business, the National Bar.
It has been baking and selling macaroons, loaves, confectionery and cream cakes in High Street for around six months, and has helped acclimatise people in Belfast to the idea of a patisserie, a concept we usually only encounter on holiday in continental Europe.
The owners of The Albany on the Lisburn Road have also expressed an intention to open up a licensed patisserie next to their pub... and now the example of Northern Ireland operators may have inspired a major UK-wide chain to come and have a go in Northern Ireland. As it revealed plans to float on the stock market, Patisserie Holdings chief executive Paul May said the company has been hoping to set up in Northern Ireland for a long time.
Premises in Corn Market around the corner from Victoria Square have been idenitified though negotiations are continuing, according to Mr May. The news may frighten Mimi, or serve as vindication for Beannchor's judgment of our capacity for sweet things. Could it be that Mimi's experiences have paved the way for Valerie? Only time will tell how the Great Belfast Bake-Off will pan out.