Tag Archives: SoNo Baking Company

Library Cafe’s Mystic-al Tale

Westport Library officials anticipated a big crowd at their “transformation” opening last Sunday.

They just didn’t figure it would be so big.

After a brass band led hundreds into the new building at 11:15, they swarmed into the new space. People oohed and aahed over the Forum, the recording studio, the children’s section, art galleries and reading rooms.

And they lined up, 20 deep, for sandwiches, salads, baked goods and coffee in the new café.

By 1:30, the library had run out of food.

They called Mystic Market — their new partner. Barely half an hour later, the café was fully restocked.

Heli Stagg in the library cafe, with prepared food from Mystic Market, baked goods from Sono Baking Company, and the brand-new espresso machine.

Mystic Market’s popularity has grown steadily, since opening a couple of months ago in the old Blu Parrot/Jasmine/Arrow Charles Street site near the train station.

Now, library users far beyond Saugatuck are discovering the market’s magic too.

The new partnership “was meant to be,” says Heli Stagg, Westport Library retail and café manager.

As the library expanded, she’d searched for a new partner. Oscar’s was the first, when the small original café opened several years ago. After owner Lee Papageorge died, Gold’s took over. Both were “great,” Stagg says.

But with the transformation project nearly complete, the library wanted to offer more than basic salads and sandwiches.

Stagg had heard raves about Mystic Market’s prepared foods. When she met general manager David Griswold, the first thing he offered was a tour of their state-of-the-art kitchen.

David Griswold (center) and his Mystic Market team.

Stagg was impressed. Serendipitously, the market’s owners — Mystic-based Coastal Gourmet Group — were there for a meeting. She invited them to the still-under-construction library.

A few minutes in, they told her, “We have to do this.”

“Their food is excellent,” she says. “We want a high-end vendor. And we want them to succeed. This is a win for both of us.”

Mystic Market is not the only café partner. SoNo Baking Company is in its 4th year providing baked goods.

As with Mystic Market, Stagg had heard good things about the Norwalk-based firm. When she met the owners — and tasted their food — she was sold.

With both companies, Stagg says, “we’re doing exactly what the library likes to do everywhere: make connections. We want people to enjoy the café, and learn about businesses they might not know.”

Patrons enjoy the new Westport Library cafe inside …

The transformed library has made one more connection: with Food Rescue US.

That’s the innovate group that uses an app to match supermarkets, restaurants (and library cafēs!) having leftover food, with volunteers who can pick it up and deliver to shelters, kitchens and pantries.

Now — like Westport Library patrons — they too can enjoy the Mystic Market and SoNo Baking bounty.

… and out.

Business For Sale Or Lease. Cleanup Required.

Dozens of vacant stores line the Post Road.

But it’s doubtful any are as messy and cluttered as the one formerly occupied by SoNo Baking Company and A&J’s Farm market, near Goodwill.

Furnishings, freezers and other debris have sat in the parking lot for months.

Half-sawed logs, too.

It’s a great location, with plenty of traffic.

And the photos above are what every driver sees, every day.

Aux Delices Now Aux-pen

In one of the fastest turnarounds in coffee shop/baked goods/prepared foods history, Aux Delices opened today on Church Lane.

The small chain’s 2nd Westport location is the former site of Sono Baking Company. That store closed just 2 weeks ago.

Westporters always like checking out new places. There’s an extra incentive today: Free coffee until closing (4 p.m.).

Sono Baking To Close; Aux Delices Moves In

Two years ago, SoNo Baking Company took over the downtown coffee shop space vacated by Java.

The popular mini-chain — with branches in Norwalk and Darien — drew 150 to 200 people a day, 300 on weekends. Customers came to eat and meet — despite the noise and dust of the Bedford Square construction project, diagonally across Church Lane.

But now — the moment the retail/restaurant/residential complex is opening — SoNo Baking is closing. Owner John Barricelli expects to sell his final coffees, pastries and salads by Easter.

Plenty to choose from at SoNo Baking Company.

Moving in is Aux Delices. They’ll keep their other Westport store next to Carvel. This will be the 5th location, with 2 in Greenwich and 1 in Darien. Aux Delices offers imported and local foods, freshly baked desserts and full-service catering.

“The rent was astronomical,” laments SoNo owner John Barricelli. “We couldn’t pay what we owed on coffee and cake. We fell behind, and it got to be a huge burden. I’ve never walked away from a bill in my life.

“If we were going in now, we might have had a chance. But the numbers didn’t add up.

“To make it there we needed alcohol, and to be open 24/7. For some reason, at 2 p.m. downtown gets very quiet. We had plenty of people in the morning, and until 2. But with the average check of $10 to $15 — you do the math.”

Barricelli calls SoNo’s closing “very sad.”

But he’s not giving up on Westport. He’s looking for another site near Southport — close to their previous location, near A&J’s Farm Stand.

And speaking of farmers: SoNo Baking was an original vendor at the Westport Farmers’ Market.

They’ll still be there this summer.

Wired!

Yesterday, “06880” posted Jennifer Johnson’s gorgeous photo of Bedford Square.

Sitting outside SoNo bakery, an alert “06880” reader noticed how lovely Seabury Center — across from the new construction — looked in the afternoon light.

She snapped this photo:

seabury-center

Gazing down Church Lane toward Christ & Holy Trinity Church, she shot another:

christ-holy-trinity-church

But as she peered closer, she saw what she believes is a new utility pole.

Suddenly, she wondered: Will this lovely scene soon become a jumble of overhead power and cable lines?

She looked back toward Elm Street, and saw this cluttered mess:

elm-street

Last summer, she thought that all the work on Church Lane meant that utility wires would be buried underground.

Now she’s unsure.

And very, very worried.

Randy Herbertson’s Very Local Visual Brand

Randy Herbertson is a Midwesterner. His wife grew up in California — where she had no idea that ancestors named Barlow and Hurlbutt had roots in this area dating back centuries.

In 1997 Herbertson — a talented, creative marketing executive — was transferred east by Conde Nast. He lived in Westport and commuted to New York, where for many years he owned a branding agency.

In 2013 he had a revelation. “Am I stupid?” he asked himself. “Why can’t I work in Westport too?” (His wife — the lead designer at Terrain — already did.)

Randy Herbertson

Randy Herbertson

He and his business partner, fellow Westporter Geoff Shafer, opened their multimidia design and promotion firm, The Visual Brand, downtown. In the 2 years since, Herbertson — who makes his living observing consumers’ behavior — has saved hours of commuting time each day.

He knew that would happen. What he did not expect was that he’d become part of a flourising, fun downtown community.

Operating out of reclaimed space on Church Lane — a building behind SoNo Baking Company — Herbertson and Shafer have found plenty of local clients. They hang out in cool places.

Herbertson has joined local business organizations. He’s hired Connecticut designers. “I’d never even heard of Western Connecticut State University,” he admits. “But they’ve got a great program, with really good people.”

Herbertson and Shafer found other businesses founded by former New Yorkers. Neat coffee and cocktails and Luxe Wine Bar are two. Westport Wash & Wax and Quality Towing are 2 more. Not everyone aspires to work in New York forever,” Herbertson says.

The Visual Brand office: inside and out.

The Visual Brand office: inside and out.

From his office — the mail sorting room of the very first Westport post office — Herbertson watches Bedford Square rise.

“It’s a bit of a pain,” he says of the construction. “But it’s exciting. It will be very good overall.”

His marketing eye has been caught by Anthropologie, which will do “some very cool stuff” with their repurposed space.

But, he says, “it’s important to keep the local element downtown — not just the big corporations.” He cites SoNo Baking as “very focused on what this community needs.”

His vision is stirred by the possibilities across the street. A choir member of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Herbertson would love to find an investor, buy the adjacent Seabury Center, and turn it into a performing arts center like the Ridgefield Playhouse.

“I’m really bullish on downtown,” he notes. “We have an opportunity to be really creative. My son lives in West Hartford. They’ve done some pretty cool stuff up there, in an area that used to be not so good. I hope we can do it better.”

This photo on the very intriguing home page of The Visual Brand's website was taken just a couple of miles from the firm's office.

This photo on the very intriguing home page of The Visual Brand’s website was taken just a couple of miles from the firm’s office.

After 2 years, Herbertson says, he’s found “no downsides” to working in Westport. (He still has clients in the city. They’re just a train ride away.)

“It’s completely possible to do everything we did in New York — at a fraction of the cost.”

Plus, there are all those wine bars, coffee shops — and maybe even a performing arts space — just steps away.

 

Coffee 101

Alert “06880” photographer Lynn U. Miller spotted this sign yesterday, outside SoNo Baking Company downtown:

SoNo Bakery - Lynn U Miller

To which we can only add that famous soccer cheer, heard worldwide:

Au lait! Au lait au lait au lait…!

SoNo Baking Company Opens Wednesday; Geiger’s Closes

SoNo Baking CompanyWord on the (Church) street is that Sono Baking Company will open tomorrow Wednesday at 7 am. Moving into the funky space previously occupied by Java, they’ll offer a limited menu this 1st week.

Meanwhile, Geiger’s Home & Garden Center has closed its Post Road East location. That’s the end of a long era. For several decades before Geiger’s, it was known as Parsell’s Garden Mart.

Redevelopment plans for the 2-acre site include a commercial/residential complex with 12 residential rental units — 2 of them classified as “affordable” — plus a retail building and bank.

Geiger’s is still open in Fairfield, New Canaan, Greenwich and Mamaroneck. And consultation services are still offered in their Sconset Square location.

From which — starting tomorrow — employees can walk a few steps over to Westport’s newest coffee shop, Sono Baking Company.

Geigers