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Editorial: Losses and Gains; Change Comes to Hartford

The lives of communities closely mirror those of individuals, with loss and rebirth playing their appointed roles in each. Perhaps this is only another way of saying that change is the one constant in all human endeavor.

This cycle played out last weekend in Hartford. On Saturday, the Bakers Studio on South Main Street in White River Junction closed after 18 years. It’s too much to claim that its passing marks the end of an era. For one thing, an era seems to us to stretch for longer than 18 years, and for another, Bakers Studio was not the kind of emblematic business that is synonymous with its location, as, for instance, Dan and Whit’s is in Norwich.

But for the devoted regulars who came for breakfast or lunch, Bakers Studio was an oasis of good food, reasonable prices and friendly service, dispensed by warmly welcoming employees in the heart of downtown. And that’s saying quite enough.

The lunch crowd (although the bakery wasn’t often too crowded) was eclectic, including, we surmised, everybody from tradesmen to students at the cartoon school to prosecutors from the state’s attorney’s office to workers at businesses along the street. The stools at the counter afforded a broad view of the passing street scene, which in White River Junction is itself entertaining.

Yet as we read staff writer Jon Wolper’s account in Saturday’s Valley News, we couldn’t help but appreciate the reasons for the closing, if not the result. Owner Chris Calvin, 53, told Wolper that the explanation was simple: After 18 years of working six days a week from 12:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., “I just don’t want to do it anymore.” And who could blame him? Running a small business is the dream of many an American, but the reality is often anything but romantic. The good news is that you are your own boss; the bad news is that you are your own boss, driven by much more than economic imperative.

In any case, change being a constant, Calvin now intends to work out of his recently purchased barn in Hartland, selling his baked goods wholesale and at farmers markets. And if it’s not the end of an era, it’s a pretty good legacy to leave behind customers with fond memories of your enterprise as well as grateful employees, one of whom summed up her years at Bakers Studio this way: “He’s a wonderful man to work for.”

At the same time, the theme of rebirth was being played out a few miles down the road in Quechee, where a ceremony marked the opening of a new bridge replacing the one washed away 16 months ago in Tropical Storm Irene. The destruction of the old span severed the major artery from Route 4 to the heart of the village.

The resulting inconvenience and economic hardship produced commensurate degrees of frustration and skepticism about when residents and business owners could expect relief. The answer turned out to be pretty much what town officials promised — the $2.2 million replacement bridge was opened to traffic before the end of the year (although it has been closed at times this week to permit remaining work to be done). Anyway, it’s a handsome as well as functional structure, one that by reconnecting two halves of a physically divided village serves a symbolic as well as a useful purpose.