A recipe for community spirit from a laundry

Sweet delights at the Vergennes Laundry (image from Corey Hendrickson)

Sweet delights at the Vergennes Laundry (image from Corey Hendrickson)

 

In Vergennes, Vermont’s smallest and oldest city sat an old vacant laundry. Julianne Jones and her husband Didier Murat had an idea. With the addition of a custom made wood-fired brick oven they could transform the space into a traditional bakery.

Whilst this specific type of oven is new to the USA, they have been in use around the Mediterranean and the Middle East for centuries. In times when few homes would have had an oven, they played a huge role within a community beyond just the bread production. They would have been used to cook large scale meals as part of important celebrations. These celebrations were a core part of bringing a community together.

 

 

Design image of the legendary Vergennes Laundry oven (image from Vergennes Laundry Kickstarter campaign)

Design image of the legendary Vergennes Laundry oven (image from Vergennes Laundry Kickstarter campaign)

 

In setting up Vergennes Laundry the couple raised the seed money on Kickstarter. This is an online funding platform that enables people to support independent creative ventures. I love that this is more than just handing over some money to a faceless organisation – its genuinely about supporting another person’s dream.

The space that Julianne and Didier have built is really special and just like their bread, created by hand. Didier handmade the counter, birch wood tables and shelves. The aprons and napkins were made from vintage linen. There is real honesty in the overall interior design with its all-white colour scheme and paired back feel. The result is that Benjamin, the antique caribou, has pride of place and the artisan breads and handmade pastries are allowed to be the true heroes.

 

Crisp white Vergennes Laundry interior with Benjamin, the antique caribou in pride of place (image by Corey Hendrickson)

Crisp white Vergennes Laundry interior with Benjamin, the antique caribou in pride of place (image by Corey Hendrickson)

 

Handmade tables and benches paired with Artek Aalto Birch Chair 66 (image by Julianne Jones)

Handmade tables and benches paired with Artek Aalto Birch Chair 66 (image by Julianne Jones)

 

I think the Artek chair adds a lovely feeling of warmth against the polished concrete floor and sits really well with the painted timber clad walls.

 

Artek Aalto Birch Chair 66 (image from Aalto)

Artek Aalto Birch Chair 66 (image from Aalto)

 

On a side note: Vergennes is named after Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes, the French foreign minister who greatly aided the North American colonists in the lead up and during the American Revolution. He hoped this aid would serve as some payback for Great Britain’s victory over France in the Seven Year War. I can’t help but think he would smile to see the delicious handmade croissants now available in the city that bears his name…

 

circa 1955 - French postage stamp of Charles Gravier,  Comte de Vergennes (image from Wiki Timbres)

circa 1955 – French postage stamp of Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes (image from Wiki Timbres)

 

 

I love traditional bakeries – it is a sensory experience that gets me. The warmth of the oven, pillows of dough slowly rising in their tins and that delicious smell of fresh bread. There is such simple pleasure to be had watching the tiny grains of freshly ground flour dancing in the sunlight as the baker freely throws it onto the table to begin working the dough. Seeing fresh bread pulled from the oven is exhilarating and makes that first taste so much better. Let’s face it, those endless shelves of supermarket loaves are a very poor substitute.

 

 

Vergennes Laundry bakery entrance (image from Traveling Near and Far)

Vergennes Laundry bakery entrance (image from Traveling Near and Far)

 

This is more than just a bakery that looks good.
It is more than a bakery that makes beautiful handmade produce.
It is a place for the community to be part of, interact together and enjoy.

 

In this day and age when our next door neighbour is often a complete stranger, this is all the more important to serve as an informal meeting place and a place to share great fare and indeed break bread together…

 

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