By Sharon Lakey
Going out for “a little something” just got better in Danville. Bentley’s Bakery and Café (named for the owners’ first dog) has finally opened on Hill Street. Since 2008, when contractor Mark Greaves’ truck began appearing in front of the empty hardware store, word buzzed around town. A bakery and coffee shop sounded great, but until recently, when a white hand-lettered sign hung in the front window announcing “April 7” appeared, there was question about it becoming a reality.
“The economy did delay the café for a year,” said Jeff Frampton, who owns Bentley’s with his wife Nancy. But the wait was worth it. In the first week of business, customers poured through the door and tasted the wares that proved to be eye-candy as well as tasty. Local pastry chef Tarah Faulkner presented some remarkable looking creations in the two glass cases from which customers peruse and order.
The Framptons value Tarah’s expertise with pastry. She graduated from the New England Culinary Institute in 2008 with an Associate Degree in baking and pastry. Her internships helped hone her skills at the Woodstock Inn in Vermont and at the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina. Now living in West Danville with her 19-month-old daughter, Aubrey, and fiancé, Brad Fontaine, she thankfully hasn’t far to go when she meets Nancy in the early morning hours to bake the pastry for the day.
Besides the smell of good food, the space is filled with light from the large front windows, and morning sunshine pouring into the kitchen from the east. The Framptons’ design allows customers to see into the kitchen, making the connection between bakers and diners a communal event. Their original hope was to receive a historical renovation grant for the building. Though the grant didn’t come through, by the time they had gone through the preliminaries, they felt a commitment to keep the historical feel of the building. “It was the first downtown building rebuilt after the 1895 fire,” said Jeff. This attention to historical detail has provided a theme for the interior that is homey and comforting. “It’s totally up to code, now,” said Jeff, “top to bottom.” It’s green, too, an energy efficient older building that proves it can be done. Jeff relied on the expertise of Efficiency Vermont and Mark Greaves to help in this area.
The Frampton’s, who live on Maple Lane in Danville, originally came from Montreal, so the connection with French pastry is strong (croissant is a specialty item). After the first three days, Nancy reports the biggest lunch seller had been the quiche. “The pastries are fresh every day,” said Nancy, as she rolled croissant that would be baked the next morning. She explained how a croissant is made and to demonstrate turned on a mechanical wonder, called a “sheeter,” that sits in the kitchen. “This is really Tarah’s machine,” she explained. It is used to incorporate butter into the dough, a labor-saving device that is a critical time-saver for the chefs.
“The menu will change to keep things new,” said Nancy. In the mornings, there are pastries and coffee from the espresso bar or tea. The lunch menu is light, featuring soup, salads, quiche, ham and cheese croissants and Panini sandwiches. Local man, Tim Ide, tried out both ends of the day on Friday with a chocolate croissant in the morning and Panini at noon. He appeared quite happy with the results. Specialty pastry orders, including wedding cakes, can be taken as long as they are given in advance. “We use as many Vermont products as possible as well as local contractors,” said Jeff. “We realize value of keeping Vermont viable.”
In planning the menu, the couple wanted to fill a niche that they felt wasn’t being covered by other food establishments in town. “We talked with the other owners before we came up with out plans. We didn’t want to compete with their business; we wanted to work with them.” One of the things that they heard often was the need to be open on Sunday, and the have complied. Bentley’s hours are Wednesday through Friday, 6:30 to 1:30 and Saturdays and Sundays, 8:00 to 1:00.
The only kitchen disaster on opening day was related to getting used to the new equipment. “In a panic, I called the man who had installed our coffee machine, explaining the coffee was cold,” said Jeff. “He calmly told me to flip two toggle switches in the back that allowed the water to heat.” They had worked into the night the day before opening day. So busy was Jeff with last minute details, he didn’t have time to change into his Bentley’s shirt until the first customers had enjoyed a breakfast.
The happiest surprise for the Frampton’s has been the overwhelming support they have felt from the village. For that, they are most thankful. The community is thankful, too, for another way to celebrate coming together over a delightful delicacy in a pleasant setting.
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This article first appeared in the May, 2010 issue of the North Star Monthly.