The Bakers Studio Closes After 18 Years in White River Junction
At The Bakers Studio in White River Junction, regular customer Ceil Furlong, left, hugs mother and daughter employees Lawrie Donnelly and Vicki Ward yesterday. The shop is closing after 18 years in business. Furlong works in White River Junction and stopped by the bakery once or twice a day. “I’m grieving already,” Furlong said. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
At The Bakers Studio in White River Junction, customers Chris McKinley, of White River Junction, and husband and wife Robin and Jeff DePalma, of Corinth, chat about the history of the railroad industry in the area. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Bakers' Studio owner Chris Calvin makes bagels -- the White River Junction's retail shop is closing after being in business for eighteen years. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
White River Junction — The most notable thing in the Bakers Studio storefront window is a Christmas display made of miniatures. There’s no sign, plastered across the glass, warning patrons that the store won’t be there tomorrow. There’s no going-out-of-business pastry liquidation under way.
But the bakery on South Main Street will close for good this afternoon, shutting its doors without fanfare after 18 years in business.
The news has trickled out, especially to regulars who live or work in the area, but the idea was to shutter operations without much fuss, said owner Chris Calvin .
“I just didn’t want to make a big deal out of it,” Calvin said.
Calvin will continue to sell his goods wholesale, working as a one-man operation out of a recently purchased Hartland barn, and he’ll still sell at farmers markets. The 53-year-old said that will cut about 30 hours out of his workweek. The motivation to close the storefront wasn’t financial instability; it was exhaustion.
For nearly 20 years, he has worked six days a week from 12:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., he said.
“I just don’t want to do it anymore,” Calvin said.
As Calvin turned back to work yesterday morning, customers came and went, purchasing bagels and coffee and cookies. Most transactions went quickly, a brief exchange of money and pastries, before the buyer headed out.
Lawrie Donnelly, who was working the register, said that many patrons still don’t know the news. She and her daughter, Vicki Ward, who also works at the bakery, were told two weeks ago. Yesterday was their last day.
“He’s a wonderful man to work for,” Donnelly said of Calvin.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor,” said Ward, who started working behind the counter at the store four years ago but quickly moved to the kitchen, helping with the actual baking.
Now Ward, 36, makes dough, cookies, pastries and pies. She said she wasn’t sure where she’d end up next, but wouldn’t mind if it was in another bakery.
Donnelly was also unsure of her next move, and noted several times her attachment to the bakery.
“We have seen people, young kids, turn into teenagers,” she said. “That part of this job will be hard to leave behind. You feel like you’re connected to them.”
Soon after, she noticed Steve Corbeil heading toward the store and identified him as a regular, the kind who gets the same thing daily.
He ordered. She told him the bakery was closing.
“What, this one?” he asked.
This one, she said.
“What the hell am I supposed to do?” Corbeil said half-jokingly, holding a plain bagel with cream cheese, his breakfast of choice. In his words, it was the best bagel in the Upper Valley.
And then he left.
Another regular, Bob Franzoni, stopped in. He had heard about the closing a week ago.
“I was surprised,” he said. “It’s a great lunch place. It’s inexpensive. Great food.”
Normally, he said, he’d end up at the Bakers Studio four times a week. Because of the imminent closing, he planned to go back yesterday afternoon for lunch.
The flow of breakfast patrons slowed by 10 a.m. and the front of the bakery quieted. Periodically, Donnelly’s eyes reddened.
March would have marked her fifth year working at the store.
“I will miss this place,” she said. “I really will.”
There was work to be done, however. In back, Ward stood over trays of “compass cookies,” sugar cookies covered in fondant icing and decorated to look like their namesake. There were 48 of them, and they would all go to Northern Stage, which sells them at its concession stand.
Ward continued to decorate the compass cookies, dispensing purple icing from a pastry bag. After she finished, she would move on to a batch of apple turnovers. From there, she’d pack an order for a customer. Then, she said, she’d start preparing for lunch.
Jon Wolper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3248.