A perfect play on words: Bittersweet Bakery and Cafe coming to Deerfield

  • Laura Newton is opening Bittersweet Bakery & Cafe in the former Savages’ Market in Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 2/8/2018 5:57:42 PM

DEERFIELD — Laura Newton has been baking since she was small enough to need a stool to reach the counter. Now, at 25 years old, she will be the proud owner of her very own bakery where the former Savages’ Market stood.

Newton, who grew up in the county, didn’t make the decision on a whim, either. Owning a bakery has been her goal for quite some time and she couldn’t be more excited that her dream is becoming a reality so soon. Bittersweet Bakery & Cafe is set to have a soft opening in late April.

“It’s been my dream since high school,” she said.

After high school at Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Greenfield, Newton went straight to pastry school at the Denver, Colo., campus of Johnson and Wales University. Classmates told her she’d own a bakery within two to five years after graduating.

After pastry school, Newton headed to the University of Massachusetts Amherst. When Newton was still in school, she saw the property go up for sale. She considered buying it, but someone put a bid on it before she could make a decision. Fortunately for her, the bid fell through and she was able to purchase it after graduation.

Newton admits she wasn’t sure where to start, but always had the project in the back of her mind during her last semester at UMass. She completed an independent study where she built her own business plan.

“You can only do so much in one semester,” she said, continuing that she was able to polish the plan fairly well in the short amount of time.

The business plan was written vaguely enough that she was able to adjust it to fit her specific business plan for her cafe.

“Nothing has fallen into my lap, but it’s all come together how it’s supposed to,” she said.

A life of experience

Newton’s life isn’t all pastries, cakes, and pies, though.

“I bake for my profession, but I love cooking at home,” she said.

She graduated from pastry school in May 2012 and began working at Farm Table in Bernardston two months later. Newton feels that she was “really fortunate” to get a job so quickly out of school.

The Farm Table ended up being a positive experience for Newton, who worked there for over four years. Newton says that it allowed her to see “what the restaurant business is all about.”

Working at Farm Table isn’t the only experience she gained after getting her pastry degree. While working at the restaurant, she obtained a Hospitality and Tourism Management degree from Isenberg Management School at UMass.

“I don’t do anything halfway,” she said. “Hard work has never scared me.”

From market to cafe

After seven months of jumping through hoops, Newton closed on the property about a month ago and is already eagerly making the place her own. She’s learned a wealth of information about permits and regulations in the past few weeks.

“I definitely had to prove myself, being a 25-year-old owning a business,” she said. “People keep asking me ‘why now?’”

At this point, she says she is in the “demolition phase” of preparing the building for her cafe. It needs “a lot of work,” but it gives her a chance to design the interior exactly how she wants. Her father and some other eager friends and family members have been helping her.

While the interior is outdated, Newton says the structure is sound and the building will last.

“I want to do everything right and build it well from the start,” she said. “I know it’ll be there for a long time.”

According to Newton, everything is getting upgraded. There will be free Wi-Fi and the building will be made ADA compliant with a ramp and two handicap-accessible bathrooms.

She plans to eventually add a porch, commenting that it would be the perfect place to watch the sunset.

“If people want to sit and linger for a few hours, that’s great,” she said.

The market didn’t have a kitchen or seating, so Newton has to add both. She’s positive about the work she has to do and excited to give the community a new place to enjoy.

“What was a market with shelving will now be a place for people to sit down and enjoy food,” she said.

“I have a pretty clear vision of what I’m going to do with the place,” she said. “It’s such a great location.”

While she says she still needs to pinpoint her target market, she believes she has a “leg up” since she’s a local and attended school in the area.

Newton has plenty to live up to since Savages had a loyal local following, but she isn’t worried.

“My goal has always been to make it a place where the community can come together, where both locals and tourists feel welcome,” she said. “I want to make it affordable no matter who the customer is.”

“No one should not be able to afford a good meal,” she emphasized.

Bakery expectations

Newton plans to make “good food with a gourmet twist,” and hopes that she’ll gain a daily following much like the former Savages’ Market had. According to her, if the food is affordable then customers will be able to stop by frequently for food or a coffee.

In addition to coffee, espresso, and baked goods, Newton will serve breakfast and lunch sandwiches made from scratch. She’s open to suggestions from the community, and enough people told her she should also sell pizza, so she will be getting a pizza oven that cooks in 90 seconds and cooks crust “just like a wood-fired oven.”

One important quality for Newton is locally sourced and homemade food. She hopes to partner with local farms and get ingredients like produce, flour, and meats.

She also doesn’t want the food to be too fancy and complicated. She stressed that she would like to make sandwiches “simple and approachable” and not overwhelm customers.

Newton said plans to cross-train each employee she hires so they’ll use the register, make espresso, craft sandwiches, and make other food. However, Newton will be the baker and make pastries, French-style croissants, brownies, cookies, cakes, and more. She would like to eventually get a baking assistant, too.

Newton doesn’t plan to offer dinner, but she intends to be open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. While some have questioned the long hours, Newton said she wishes to cater to those who just got off work and need a snack or food or an evening function.

A name with meaning

For Newton, Bittersweet Bakery & Cafe doesn’t just remind her of the bittersweet chocolate she uses in baked goods, or the American bittersweet vines that grow locally. It also reminds her of the events that have made her grow stronger and led her to where she is now.

Three years ago, Newton lost her mother and sister in a tragic car accident. Since her mother was one of her biggest influences for her baking, it’s definitely a bittersweet time for her.

“Without (my mom), this wouldn’t be possible,” she said. “The name couldn’t be more fitting.”

Newton warmly remembers her mother and grandmothers as her largest influences for baking, and says her parents have always supported her dreams of opening a bakery.

“My dad is a great inspiration and he’s always been so strong,” she said. “He’s helped me so much”

Her parents actually lived in the upstairs apartment that comes with the building she purchased. Her mother worked in the shop for a short amount of time, too.

“Everything is coming full circle,” Newton said.

She admits that the process has included a lot of hard work, sweat, tears, learning, and education, but it’s finally all paying off.

“My family has gone through a lot, so it’s a good thing for us,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Reach Christie Wisniewski at: cwisniewski@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 280

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