Tag Archives: Rick Dickinson

OMG! Old Mill Grocery Opens Soon

For a couple of months, Westporters gazed longingly at the old Elvira’s/Joey’s by the Shore on Hillspoint Road. A sign promised that the Old Mill Grocery & Deli would open this summer.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

Our long wait is almost over. The new owners have found a great local operator, poised to begin the last week of July.

It will be run by …

…. TGB Hospitality Group.

Doesn’t sound familiar? This will: TGB stands for “The Granola Bar.”

One of Westport’s favorite coffee shop/bakeries takes over one of our town’s most historic properties. For 103 years, the wooden building by Old Mill Beach has served the neighborhood, beachgoers, and everyone else who works or passes through the area.

Previous owners Hal and Betsy Kravitz searched hard for a buyer. They could not find one. Finally — just after they sold all their equipment — a group of nearby residents led by Jim Hood, Ian Warburg, Chris Tait and Emily Ashken Zobl formed a non-profit to buy the building, and keep it as a market/deli.

Done! The newest sign was unveiled yesterday evening. Standing proudly are (from left): Jim Hood, The Granola Bar co-founders Julie Mountain and Dana Noorilly, TGB Hospitality Group director of food and beverage JJ Heanoa, Emily Ashken Zobl. Koda — the Old Mill Grocery dog — sits in front.

Their fundraising was phenomenal. But they’re not pizza chefs and coffee makers.

They met with about 20 potential operators. The Granola Bar was the perfect fit.

Owners Julie Mountain and Dana Noorily have a great reputation. They know and love Westport. They’re pros — but they’re also fun to work with.

They had even thought about buying the building, when it was up for sale last year. But, Julie notes, “we serve food. We’re not in the real estate business.”

Since opening 9 years ago, The Granola Bar has been an integral part of Westport. “We live here. We see the people we serve every day. Our kids are in the schools. These are all our friends, our neighbors,” Mountain notes.

Julie Mountain and Dana Noorily, The Granola Bar co-founders.

Mountain and Noorily have expanded. TGB Hospitality Group now includes 6 restaurants, a catering business, food truck and restaurant consultancy.

But the Old Mill Grocery & Deli will not be The Granola Bar 2.0. It’s forging its own identity.

The “beach food” menu will include pastas, sandwiches, salads, wraps, smashburgers, and fresh fruits, vegetables and bread. TGB baker Rick Dickinson will provide the pizza dough. Breakfast food is both healthy and “indulgent.” There will be meals to please the night crowd too — and charcuterie boards to bring to the beach. (Old Mill Grocery will deliver to the Compo drop-off point, too.)

Plus, of course, ice cream.

Noorily  calls it “an elevated place the serves elevated food.”

“This community saved the building. They’ll get a year-round restaurant and market,” Hood says. (The “market” includes staples like butter, milk, eggs and paper towels.) That’s great news for the 750 homes within a 3/4-mile radius.

Committee members (from left) Ian Warburg, Jim Hood and Emily Ashken Zobl, outside the property they helped save.

“This is not a lift. It’s a full Botox,” Mountain says.

It’s also a fulfillment of the investors’ mission, to provide training and jobs for people with special needs and disabilities.

The new owners have done plenty of due diligence: first creating a non-profit, then purchasing the building, now finding the perfect operators.

In a few days, the next chapter in this historic story begins.

(Old Mill Grocery & Deli hopes to open on or around July 25. Hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m, 7 days a week. Click here for more information; follow on Instagram @oldmillgrocery.

(Soundview Empowerment Alliance — the nonprofit organization behind the community effort — seeks donors interested in “naming rights” for major items. They range from an espresso machine and pizza oven to re-shingling and a new roof. For more information email SoundviewEmpowerment@gmail.com.)

(Like Old Mill Grocery, “06880” is a community resource. Please click here to help support this blog.)

Rick Dickinson Returns

When one door closes, another opens.

For Rick Dickinson, that cliché is true — literally.

Yesterday, the Peter’s Weston Market door closed for the final time.

This morning, it opens at The Granola Bar.

Rick spent the past 7 years running the market’s bakery. But for more than 2 decades before that, he was the much-loved (and very generous) owner of Great Cakes.

Rick Dickinson, with his great Great Cakes goods.

When that iconic bakery across from New Country Toyota closed 7 years ago tomorrow, Westport lost more than a spot to satisfy a sweet tooth and enjoy a leisurely coffee. It lost a business that always gave back to the community, and a businessman who cared deeply about the town.

Rick was Great Cakes. He worked there for 27 of its 32 years — the last 22 as owner.

As Peter’s Weston Market prepared to close, Rick began thinking about Granola Bar co-owner Julie Mountain. He called, asking if they needed help.

She was stunned. Julie and fellow owner Dana Noorily had just been talking about doing more with their baked goods.

The 3 met at the popular Playhouse Square café. Rapport was instant. “We had the same ideas. And we laughed a lot,” Rick says.

He quickly said: “I’m 150 percent in.”

They quickly said: “Great. You’ll start Monday!”

So Rick is already on the job. Unfortunately, he can’t whip up his new additions to the Granola Bar menu — challah, cakes, cookies, cupcakes, brownies — justlikethat.

Julie and Dana have already purchased a challah maker (from Peter’s). But other equipment is needed.

Items will be added gradually. Challah, he promises, is first.

Coming soon: new bakery items on The Granola Bar menu.

Rick is working out of Westport, supplying it and the 4 other Granola Bar locations (Fairfield, Stamford, Greenwich and Rye).

“Julie and Dana have such a successful business already,” he says. “This is a win-win for all of us. I haven’t been this excited in years. I feel like I’m coming home.”

Welcome home, Rick Dickinson.

And don’t let the door hit you on the way in.

Cole Dickinson’s Baseball Career Is A Cakewalk

Three years ago, Westport’s all-stars electrified the town with a great run to the Little League World Series championship game.

Among their many fans was Rick Dickinson. A huge baseball fan himself (and former high school state champion), as the owner of Great Cakes Rick knew many of the players. Their parents bought Rick’s great cakes to celebrate birthdays, and Rick chatted with them about their sons’ achievements.

Many of those players and their families — all of Rick’s customers, really — knew his son Cole too. The little kid was there behind the counter during busy times, helping his dad.

Great Cakes closed just a few months after Westport’s World Series thrill.

But Rick is still baking locally — and Cole has turned into a baseball star himself.

Rick Dickinson stands proudly with his son Cole.

Rick Dickinson stands proudly with his son Cole.

The 12-year-old is a 3rd baseman on the New Milford Pride. His team recently won the New England regional championship, and is headed to the Cal Ripken World Series.

It’s set for July 29-August 6, in Aberdeen, Maryland. Cole’s first game is Saturday, July 30 against the Pacific Southwest team, from Hawaii.

(It’s worth noting that in the final inning of the regional final, the score was 9-9. The bases were loaded, with 2 outs. Cole’s hit won it.)

All of Westport — especially those former Little Leaguers — wish Cole and the New Milford Pride good luck at the Cal Ripken World Series.

Win or lose, we’re sure they’ll celebrate their week with plenty of great cakes.


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Boni Is Back Baking

First Rick Dickinson joined Peter’s Market in Weston.

Now Boni Wright is headed there too.

Which means that — starting Monday — the popular Great Cakes bakers will be back together. Just a few miles north.

The response to Rick has been tremendous. Boni’s return should be just as joyful.

Rick said earlier this week that a number of former Great Cakes customers from Westport have started coming to Peter’s now. At the same time, he didn’t realize how many Great Cakes folks actually live in Weston.

There’s only 1 word to use: Challah-lujah!

Bonnie and Rick, together again.

Bonnie and Rick, together again.

Peter’s Market Welcomes Rick Dickinson

Cupcake, cookie and challah lovers, rejoice! Your long Westport-Weston nightmare is over.

Two months after closing Great Cakes, owner Rick Dickinson is back. He’s joined Peter’s Market in Weston, where he’ll draw thousands of devoted customers, while adding a much-needed bakery to our cake-deprived northern neighbor.

Westporters just found a good reason to head to Weston.

Westporters just found a good reason to head to Weston.

The job offer came quickly last week, after a frustrating job search. When a long-time former customer heard that Rick was still looking, she called Peter’s owner Jim Magee.

Jim and Rick met for an hour. Jim made a couple of calls. He learned that hiring the popular baker was a no-brainer.

For the past few days, Rick has been greeting surprised — and delighted — former Great Cakes friends.

At Peter’s, he’s starting pretty much from scratch (ho ho). The mixer and other equipment is not like his old space, but that will change.

Rick Dickinson, and his great Great Cakes goods.

Rick Dickinson, and his great Great Cakes goods.

Right now Rick is making cookies and cupcakes. Cakes will follow.

On Friday he’ll bake the first loaves of his famous challah. It’s sure to go quickly.

Peter’s is a win-win-win: for Rick, Jim, and everyone who loves great baked goods.

Plus, Rick shaves 10 minutes off his former long commute from New Milford. For those of us in 06880, it’s a quick 10 minutes to 06883.

And well worth the trip.

Great Cakes: The Final Day

A few minutes ago, Great Cakes ended a 32-year run as Westport’s go-to bakery.

Owner Rick Dickinson had all hands on deck, including his sons. Rick and longtime baker Boni Wright hugged, cried with and said goodbye to hundreds of longtime customers.

At the same time, there were cupcakes to sell, cakes to be picked up, questions about ingredients to be answered.

It was a typical Great Cakes day.

And one that will never happen again.

In the back, baker Boni Wright decorated her last Super Bowl cake...

In the back, baker Boni Wright decorated her last Super Bowl cake…

...customers thronged the front.

…while customers thronged the front.

Counter help included Boni, and owner Rick Dickinson's sons.

Counter help included Boni, and owner Rick Dickinson’s sons.

Handmade signs said it all.

Handwritten signs said it all.

Deja Vu, But Now True: Great Cakes Closes

Exactly one year ago today, I posted a story about Great Cakes. The popular  bakery was in danger of closing the next day — January 31, 2013 — done in by a combination of the economy, the slow winter season, changing tastes and a school district-wide ban on cupcakes for classroom parties.

great-cakes-logoWithin hours, a different story was told. Dozens of customers — loyal to owner Rick Dickinson, his assistant Bonnie, and grateful for their constant donations of pies, cookies and, yes, cupcakes to any organization that asked — rushed to the small Post Road store to help.

They handed over cash and checks. They opened “pre-paid accounts.” They offered to devise a business plan.

Great Cakes was saved.

Winter and spring were, well, great. But business tailed off in summer and fall, and never came back.

Now, Rick says, Sunday will be his last day. The decision is final — and “inevitable.”

“For the last 6 years, all I’ve done is worry about payroll,” Rick says.

Bonnie and Rick, the great team at Great Cakes.

Bonnie and Rick, the great team at Great Cakes.

He lives in New Milford. The drive to work takes an hour — and he arrives at 4 a.m. every day to get ready.

“I’m 54 years old,” he notes. “I work 103 hours a week. The business just isn’t here anymore to justify this.

“People are moving away from baked goods. It would cost $50,000 to renovate the kitchen into a deli-bakery. I just think I have to close now.”

He is using this week to pay Bonnie, and his purveyors.

Rick — who took over as owner in 1994 from Max Goree, who started the place in 1982 — loves the town, and has contributed greatly to it. Rick has developed deep, strong relationships with countless customers. They’ve been very good to him, he says.

So has his landlord, who reduced the rent as much as possible. “They know what it’s like — they owned a bakery themselves,” he says.

But on Sunday, the last cupcake will be baked. The last challah will be handed over.

And the last great cake will be sold.

Rick Dickinson, and his great goods.

Rick Dickinson, and his great goods.

Great Cakes/Great Story

Once word got out this morning that Great Cakes might close tomorrow — owner Rick Dickinson was unsure whether he could weather the tough period between the holidays and Easter — Westporters went to work.

Folks flooded the popular bakery. They bought coffee, challah and cupcakes.

They handed over cash and checks. And they opened “pre-paid accounts,” to tide Rick through the next few weeks.

Here’s a sign on the front window, made and posted by some Kool2BKind moms:

Great Cakes sign

“Save Our Store” it says. “Open your pre-pay account. Great Cakes knows it’s Kool To Be Kind.”

Meanwhile, here’s another we-love-Great Cakes poster, created by Kings Highway 2nd grader Ryan Lapatine:

It says:

Do you like cake and cupcakes? Great Cake’s

They also have cupcakes, bread and coffe.

You can sit inside.

The employees are REALY nice.

What’s especially impressive is that Ryan chose Great Cakes as her topic for a “persuasive writing” class assignment.

Last week.

You Can Save Great Cakes Today!

Sarah Green — one of the founders of Kool To Be Kind — saw this morning’s “06880” post on the dire straits of Great Cakes.

Owner Rick Dickinson has always been kind to her organization. She emailed me:

great-cakes-logoLynne Goldstein, Cindy Eigen and I are in Great Cakes right now brainstorming ways to save this wonderful local business. Basically, Rick needs $4,000 by tomorrow. If people will come in TODAY and give $100 or $200  for a prepaid account, he can make it … for now.

We need to save the man’s business. Here is someone who was struggling but STILL donated  to K2BK, for example. We as a community can save him!

Is there any way you can blog this now?

Done!

Great Cakes’ Not-Great News

The Law of Unintended Consequences says that actions always have unanticipated effects.

One unintended consequence of last year’s ban on cupcakes at school birthday celebrations may be felt tomorrow.

Great Cakes — the 30-year-old bakery near Bertucci’s — may close.

Rick Dickinson, and his great goods.

Rick Dickinson, and his great goods.

Rick Dickinson — who for 22 years has generously donated his cookies, sheet cakes and, yes, cupcakes, to any organization that asks — says that school cupcakes were 15% of his business.

His landlord has been very understanding, but business — always slow in the months between the holidays and Easter — is just too tough this year.

Tomorrow, Rick says, may be his last day.