Long before the Mercantile was even a glimmer in my eye, I had a tiny bake shop in town. It was the smallest storefront in our downtown, and if you’d blink, you'd miss it. After signing my lease, I painted the trim white, the front door blue, and hand wrote a chalkboard menu with all I had planned to offer. I worked there alone, and each morning I would wake up in the dark, make the drive into town, and get the ovens going to prepare that day's assortment. Timers would be set, trays would be lined with crisp sheets of parchment, and tray after tray would methodically enter and exit the oven doors, slowly filling the cooling racks with delicious and comforting aromas. By opening time, the old wooden bakery case would be full of flaky, fruity turnovers and crumble-topped muffins, crispy cookies, buttery croissants, honey-drizzled scones, and sweet rolls bursting with crisp pecans and warm, sweet cinnamon. The two years it was open were sweet and worthwhile, but I had also become exhausted from doing it all alone, and I made the decision to close my little downtown bakery. I had opened it when our second daughter was only 2 months old, and I was missing out on too much precious time with our young daughters. The decision to close was both gut-wrenching and bittersweet, but mostly, it was the right thing to do at that time.

Several years have now passed, and since closing the bakery's blue front door for the last time, our little girls have grown into tiny bakers themselves,  mixing batters by hand, rolling out doughs, learning how to safely use a mixer, and even saving their pennies to buy their own cookbooks. In the more recent years, during flour-covered conversations in our farmhouse kitchen, they had even mentioned one day having their own bakeries or cafés, sharing with me what they'd serve on their menus and ideas on what they would name it. I could see their excitement, and I knew firsthand the joy that owning such a place could bring.

The Mercantile brings me such happiness and I absolutely adore everything about it, but these sweet daydreamy talks with my girls made me begin to realize that a little piece of me was missing, and just how much I had missed baking for others. By the spring of 2019, it was clear that the constant reminiscing couldn’t be shaken, and instead made a solid shift into planning. From that moment on, there had been a million ideas, a million hours of research, and a million more recipes baked and tweaked and perfected in order to bring life to the bakery of my daydreams.

In early 2020, we bought a small, neglected brick building right around the corner from the main drag of downtown, one of the oldest buildings in town that we were told had been a plumber’s shop its entire 100-year-plus existence, the last ten years of that time being closed and quiet. It was not much to look at and had definitely seen better days, but all I could see was the potential. Once the building was officially ours, we began its transformation by taking down the old, tattered awning and a tumbledown shed attached to the back. We added windows all along one side to let in the light, and put back in a large picture window on the front of building so people walking by could see clearly inside. A fresh coat of warm, white paint on the outside brightened the previously dreary exterior and the new “old-fashioned” wooden front door was ordered.

Over the years, my baking style has had a chance to develop, and the recipes I love making most have changed quite a bit from the old bakery days. This time around, the focus will be more on French-style breads, sourdoughs, and seedy specialty loaves alongside some of the customer favorites served from years ago. At the old bakery, my small budget never allowed for any fancy espresso machines, so black coffee was the extent of my offerings. This time around, however, a small specialty menu of espresso, coffee drinks, and teas will be available to enjoy, a feature the coffee-lover in me is elated to offer.

While dreaming about what all this little building would contain inside its old brick walls, it became quickly clear to myself that I did not want to limit this space to just morning baked goods and coffee. I knew that incorporating more to the space than just a bakery would not only aid to satisfy my love of all things culinary, but that our tiny town may appreciate the extra features as well. Baking is my first love, bread in particular. I will never tire of mixing, shaping, and waiting patiently for fermentation magic to happen. But I also absolutely love the process of cooking, and I love to sip wine while doing it. It doesn’t matter whether it's a lavish holiday feast or the simplest meal using ingredients plucked from my garden. I adore fussing over each ingredient and every step, and seeing the smiles come to the faces of those enjoying what I've cooked is worth every minute spent over a hot stove.

As the plans for the menus continued to grow and develop, the vision for what the inside of the space would look like slowly began to take shape. New wood floors, warm white brick walls, and repurposed green and copper lights, original to the building, would illuminate the bakery case. Beautifully handcrafted wooden oak racks made in our own wood shop would be lined with a carefully selected line of pantry items, like oils and vinegars, honeys, preserves, unique European pastas, homemade granolas, and little boxes filled with sweet treats and confections, perfect for a dinner party with friends or a gift to a loved one. One rack would also be dedicated to holding a variety of European and California wines, varietals that couldn't be found at the local grocer.

Small, round, two-person bistro style tables would nestle in between the windows along one wall, the oak pantry racks would line the other, and down the center of the space would be a long, wooden farm table, able to seat many. Cubbies with seasonal floral arrangements and extra napkins dotted down the center of the table would help provide a bit of privacy between seats, but on special evenings when a community, family-style dinner would be served, the dividers could be moved aside, and the guests could huddle together around platters of home-cooked food, bottles of wine, and neighborly conversation. In addition to the inside seating, a cozy, fenced courtyard out back would serve as a lovely outdoor garden seating area during spring, summer, and autumn.

I could get really carried away and go on and on and on sharing every aspect of the plan down to the tiniest of details (and if you've read the Mercantile’s About Page you know that's very possible) but for now, I'll leave it here.

Just like the Mercantile, we hope to create a space for our town and all our guests to feel at home in. To feel hugged by sweet, delicious smells and warm smiles in the mornings, and the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked breads and cheerful exchanges shared between friends in the evenings. A place to gather, and laugh, and savor.

We are working hard, and it’s coming soon. We can’t wait to see you all this winter!