How The Flour Girl Bakery and Café went from a porch sourdough sale to a Hebron staple – Hartford Courant
If you had told Michelle Nicholson that she would run both a bakery and a cafe on Main Street in Hebron three years ago, she wouldn’t have believed you.
Turns out it all started with sourdough.
“He came from a visit to King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT,” says Nicholson. “We were there for a vacation and went to a bread making shop, and I wanted to make it myself. I was terrible at it at first. I just continued.
It didn’t take him long to get used to it. Soon she was baking better and better breads, far more than she or her family could eat. She ended up creating a small Facebook group with eight of her closest friends, offering free bread in exchange for comments.
“If they came to get it on the porch, they could have it for free, as long as they give me feedback,” Nicholson says. “That’s how it started.”
She didn’t expect that same Facebook group to explode into hundreds in a matter of months. Word of mouth is spreading fast, with people happy to pay for a loaf or two of bread. She was taking orders and leaving them in a drop box on her front porch before long. What was once a hobby quickly turned into a business.
“At first I was cooking outside my house, which was unsustainable,” she says. “We got to a point in the spring and summer of 2020 where the website we had kept crashing because our bread was selling out within minutes.”
At that time, the pandemic was in full swing. Nicholson found herself in an odd position, where her fledgling, all-out take-out business was unaffected by most mandates and closures. In fact, she had come to rent St. Peter’s Church in Hebron’s Kitchen which was, at the time, vacant as most gatherings and events were suspended.
As she ramped up production and moved forward in running a business, a parishioner informed her of a dilapidated building being renovated on Main Street.
“It was literally rotting in the ground before a couple from town took over,” Nicholson says. “They bought the building and saved it from what would have been a pretty quick demise.”
It was rebuilt as a bakery; a perfect place for Nicholson to pick up his stuff. As fate would have it, a nearby cafe would hit the market around the same time.
She was close to the owner, whose son worked as a dishwasher for Nicholson at church. He mentioned that his family was looking to move to Maine, so Nicholson made sure to let his mother know that, if that happened, she would be interested in taking the reins.
Not two weeks later, she received a phone call.
“He was offered his dream job in Maine,” Nicholson says. “It was an opportunity that would be ridiculous to pass up.”
In less than two years, she went from cooking her own kitchen to owning a nearby business as a pandemic gripped the nation.
Would you believe that more was yet to come?
While only a few years ago, Nicholson calls the sudden career change “an absolute whirlwind.”
“We went from giving away loaves of bread to selling anything I could bake in minutes. The expansion has been so rapid. There wasn’t even time to stop and think, “Do we really want to do this? Instead, we had to think ‘Okay, what do we do next?’
With both businesses up and running, the ‘next’ was how to approach the menus. The end of the bakery turned out to be easier. After all, she already had her work cut out for her.
“Our sourdough breads and artisan breads are mixed, shaped and baked by hand. We use sourdough wild yeast, and it starts with high quality flour. We don’t use blends or anything less.
Along with the breads, there is a rotating weekly theme. Last week was Christmas in July. This week, it’s breads and sweets from around the world. You’ll find his classic sourdoughs as well as salt-crusted baguettes, Japanese milk bread, Charnushka rye bread, and more.
Don’t skimp on the sweets either. Although The Flour Girl Bakery does not deal in decorative cakes and cookies, you will still find many unique and delicious baked goods to try. This week, desserts like Dutch chocolate cookies, crispy churro rice treats, Victoria sponge cupcakes and Italian limoncello muffins.
Keep up to date with news from the Connecticut food scene, delicious recipes, and restaurant and bar reviews
If you’re looking for a delicious latte and something for lunch, however, the Café side is for you.
“What sets us apart from most other restaurants,” says Nicholson, “is that we bake the bread you make your sandwiches on. Fresh, every day. You go get a panini, and it’ll be on baked sourdough that morning.
These sandwiches include their Caprese Panini, Classic Turkey, Epic Grilled Cheese and The Boss: a pepperoni, cappicola, ham and Genoa salami sandwich with tomato, smoked cheddar and a homemade garlic sauce. They also offer soups and salads, as well as a full list of coffees and specials of the week.
While running a bakery-café combo is still fresh for Nicholson, that hasn’t stopped her from looking forward to what’s next.
“About a week ago we released our special order menu,” says Nicholson. “We can make dozens of cupcakes and cookies and things like that. However, we do not make decorated cakes, cookies or specialty cupcakes. We focus on the product itself, not the decorations on the top. »
Otherwise, customers can expect more of the same delicious baked goods in the future, right on Main Street in Hebron. Drop by the cafe, have lunch, then go to the bakery next door and get a loaf of bread to take home.
As Nicholson says, “It’s a very unique experience. It’s a labor of love.