On September 1, 2012 our baking day started extra early, at 1:30AM. I wanted to be sure that be had an abundance of product, that it would be out early and that our final kitchen work was done before the party started. We had told customers that we would not take any advance orders for this final day. We wanted to be sure that everyone had a fair shot at getting the last of whatever they wanted and whatever was available, as long as they got to the bakery early enough. The day before, Friday, had been an incredibly busy day, a lot of special orders, but also just a tsunami of walk-ins, wave after wave of people and a line out the door all day. So, as the hour approached to open the door on our last morning, I began to worry that no one would show up, that it had been a mistake to decline advanced orders, and that everyone who had intended to shop had done so the day before.
Boy, was I wrong!
At exactly 7:30AM the crush of customer started where it had left off the day previous. By noon we were close to being sold out. At 11:00AM the band, a bluegrass group called THE RAMBLING KIND had set up on the sidewalk in front of the shop and kicked off a four hour set of uplifting, fun music. Our second floor tenant, Sonja Sweeney, had set up her massage chair next to the band to offer de-stressing massages to our much-stressed customers. A buffet of wine and beer and cider and cheeses were set up in our now-quiet kitchen as a small treat for our customers and friends. Patty and I mingled with the crowds, accepting their kind words of thanks and praise and best wishes. It was a happy and a sad time. Sometimes it felt like a party, sometimes it felt like a funeral. But if the bakery had indeed died, we intended to give it an Irish wake. It was a great morning and a great afternoon. We couldn't have asked for a better way to go out.
What struck us most was how emotional our customers were that this enterprise was coming to an end. Everyone had a story, all having to do with how the bakery had woven itself into the fabric of their lives, whether for some special occasion or, more often, for their daily or weekly needs. We knew we had customers, but we didn't realize we had so many devoted and passionate fans. Many people spoke about bigger issues; the bakery, to them was also about community and values. One customers said that what she would miss the most was the 'humanity.' Another customer said that Northampton was losing a 'piece of local culture.' We weren't just a store, we were a touchstone, a gathering place, a comfort, a friendly smile, a little extra attention, an extension of credit when the customer didn't have enough money for their purchase, a nicely ribboned gift box of cookies for a sick relative, a moment of gossip with Patty over their coffee and muffin purchase. Reflecting our current malaise in America, I think most people felt that yet another stable constant in this uncertain world was pulling up anchor, setting us all just a little bit more adrift.
So now Patty and I want to thank you all for being such loyal customers, fans and friends. We will miss you all as much as you will miss our breads and pastries. Were it possible, we would bake for you forever. After gaging the response over the past three weeks we regret that we had to break your hearts, because, after the hugs and tears and warmth of your response yesterday, we know we did.
We plan to keep blogging, maybe even write a baking cookbook/memoir. Who knows? But I'm sure that your past support and kindness will inspire whatever path we take.
Late last night, after the party was over, after our small family dinner was finished, and our son Peter and Polly headed back home to Northampton, they stopped one last time at the bakery and peered into the darkened front door of Bakery Normand; this is what Pete posted on his Facebook page:
It breaks our heart...