NEW GLOUCESTER – The Village Bakehouse & Co., a bakery and marketplace adjacent to the Upper Village in New Gloucester, has reopened after a decade-long hiatus.
Anne McCormack, the bakehouse proprietor, shut down the business, located at 37 Peacock Hill Road, in June 2004, after her 39-year-old sister died earlier that year.
“It was just too much, and my sister was killed in a skiing accident that February,” McCormack said. “It gave me a different perspective on my life and work.”
McCormack had opened the bakery in an 18th-century farmhouse on Intervale Road in New Gloucester in 1991. In 2000, McCormack moved the business to Connemara Farm, a 5-acre former cattle farm with a white Colonial farmhouse built in 1865 that she calls home. During that period, McCormack, who would bake 43 different items from scratch daily, had 27 wholesale accounts with stores located in Bethel, Portland, Monhegan Island, and many places in between.
After closing the bakehouse, McCormack sold her equipment, and went to work haying for a local pig farmer in the fall. In 2009, she completed a master’s degree in English and writing at the University of Southern Maine.
“The job market was really tough and I thought about reopening the bakery,” McCormack said. “My daughter said, ‘Mom, can’t you just get a real job?’”
McCormack then managed to land a job in the finance and accounting department of Mountain Ltd., a local staffing firm. But in 2011, she was laid off during a downsizing.
“As I packed up the belongings in my office that day, I drove right to the town hall and talked to the code enforcement officer and the town planner about reopening a bakery here,” McCormack said.
“I was admittedly a square peg in a round hole,” she added. “The creative side of me was not being fed. And so, when I got laid off, I started baking again for farmers markets.”
On Tuesday afternoons, from June 2012 to October 2013, McCormack operated the New Gloucester Farmers’ Market, which she had first run in 2001 and 2002. The experience inspired McCormack to return to full-time baking.
“It was not a real successful market last year due in large part to inclement weather every Tuesday,” McCormack said. “So I decided that I wanted to keep baking, but I didn’t want to work like I was working before when I had the bakery and retail shop.”
In its previous iteration, the Village Bakehouse was open 66 hours a week. Now, it is open Wednesdays through Fridays from noon to 6 p.m., and Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to noon. McCormack said the bakehouse’s relatively limited hours are a reflection of her accumulated years of experience.
“I’ve learned a few things from my first go-around with the bakery business,” McCormack said. “I’d rather have 100 people come through the door in six hours than have 100 people come through the door in 11 or 12 hours, which is what I was open per day when I had the bakehouse in the barn. Now it’s in my house and I’m back to exactly how I started, which was baking in my kitchen at home.”
At the bakehouse, McCormack sells a variety of loaves, including cinnamon raisin, Shaker wheat, sourdough potato, homestead white and potato rosemary. She also sells focaccia, pizza, molasses spice cookies, spanakopita and hot cross buns.
Beyond her own baked goods, McCormack is selling products from eight other local vendors: Fogg’s Hill Farm, Farmers’ Eight Daughters, Made by Hand Bakery, The Primal Farm and Kitchen, Blueberet, Sweet Meadow Bees, Woodturnings by DeLugo and Ella’s Chocolates.
McCormack said her goal is to promote high quality, unique products made by local farmers, producers and artisans.
“I don’t want to sell things here that are readily available in other markets,” she said.
McCormack also hopes that her sun porch, which can fit 21 people, will become a social, community gathering spot. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, she will leave a coffee pot on a table on the sun porch.
She also hopes to obtain an outdoor beer and wine license soon, so customers can buy pizza and wine during warm weather afternoons and evenings.
“I want it to be for the community,” McCormack said.