Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rolling in the Dough

On a jaunt through Taftville recently, my wife and I made the acquaintance of the Poppy and Rye Bakery Cafe. We went late in the afternoon, actually really late in the afternoon and they hadn't had anything like a 'grand opening,' so the store was filled with word of mouth customers who were enjoying everything from bagels to cookies, Russian rye bread to crumb cake muffins. We purchased two pretzels, with apologies to David Letterman, that "were bigger than canned hams."

The cafe is on Norwich Avenue, also known as Route 12. The easiest way to tell you how to get there, if you're driving is to roll down your window, take a deep breath and follow your nose. If you have a head cold, you deserve wherever you end up instead. More for the rest of us.

You've read about Poppy and Rye-it was in the pages of The Bulletin not that long ago but after Gutenberg invented movable type which helped make the daily newspaper possible, he decided to NOT pursue scratch and sniff technology-which would certainly help when talking about Poppy and Rye.

I went back Sunday morning and grabbed an almond something or other and a baked apple dessert in a pastry pocket so light I was afraid to breathe on it, some everything bagels that simply demanded to go in the bag and a loaf of rye bread that was so fresh from the oven it was too hot to slice.

I placed my baked goods in the front seat and am still proud of myself for resisting the temptation to put a string on the rye and hang it from the mirror. The aroma lingered in the car for hours and don't ask how I would know that or about the bite marks in the passenger seat. As great as everything smelled-it tasted even better.

Standing in front of the glass display cases in the shop waiting to be helped, I was surrounded by folks who'd come from near and far all making the same movie I was. Just as you'd decided what to order, you'd catch something else out of the corner of your eye and suddenly your sense of certainty would disappear.

On Sunday the trio in line before me struggled mightily in trying to make up their minds and I suspect I didn't help very much by offering to the person I think was the Dad, 'who says you have to have only have one thing?' They decided to have some coffee and sweet snacks, grabbed a table to sit and enjoy them all the while discussing what else they would have for the ride home. I wonder if their choices survived the ride.

I get excited about a venture like Poppy and Rye not merely because it's a new business (the owners have a world of experience and are no strangers to Norwich) but because of what it represents and what it could portend for the city and those of us who love living here.

Norwich isn't Bedford Falls, and few if any of us feel like we're starring in "It's a Wonderful Life" but in deference to Zuzu's teacher and what happens every time a bell rings, any time a business, large or small, opens in Norwich, it makes it easier for the next business to try us out.

And don't think I'm waxing overly euphoric. The only thing harder to do than opening a business is remaining open and growing by building a following of raving fans based on quality, price and service who'll keep coming back because they want to.

Sometimes here in Norwich, we do the big start really well, with ribbon cuttings and balloons (but no pony rides) and then we move on to something else. Like every other merchant in Norwich, large or small, Poppy & Rye Bakery Cafe are worth searching out and enjoying. Once you find them, you'll wonder how you lived without them. And after you've had a slice of their rye bread, you'll wonder why you'd ever want to.
-bill kenny

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