Bloom Bakery is coming full circle. The bakery at 1851 Monroe St., known for its cakes, breads, croissants, quiches, vegan and gluten-free dishes, will open a cafe in the now vacant space of the Crescendo Espresso Bar next door at 1859 Monroe St. The owners of Crescendo closed this space in July to focus on their location in Hilldale.
Bloom closed its dining room at the start of the pandemic, quickly converting the space into production – “which we really needed before the pandemic anyway,” says Annemarie Maitri, owner of the bakery with her husband, Mark Pavlovich. “We rewrote the business plan.” His and Pavlovich’s training had been mainly in bread and viennoiserie (a kind of pastry) and while they had wanted to develop that side of the business, there had been no room.
They bought more equipment, including a second-hand three-decker steamer and a rolling pin for croissant dough – and added a take-out window.
Maitri recalls the dark day of March 16, 2020, when she had to lay off all of Bloom’s staff and “wondered, like the rest of the world, what was next.”
In 10 days, his daughter, then a high school student, built a Square e-commerce site for the bakery. “We never had an online platform before,” Maitri says. At first, it was just Maitri’s immediate family – Mark and the three children – who ran the bakery. Then she started calling back staff who felt comfortable coming back.
The willingness of his longtime employees to return to work “changed everything for me in terms of who Bloom is. It’s a privilege to have people who love what you do the same way [you do].” Bloom provides a 401K for full-time employees because “we want to provide that financial security. But it’s more than that,” says Maitri. “When you show up to work, you want to be inspired, you want to grow, you want creativity. In any workplace, that’s what holds people back.
As the pandemic subsided, Bloom brought back more menu items in a limited but still take-out deli format. It worked wonderfully, she says. But something was missing.
“Customers would ask, are you going to bring the coffee back? It couldn’t happen in this space, because we invested a lot to become who we are today,” says Maitri. Next, Crescendo’s Cait Shanahan approached Maitri to see if she might be interested in taking over that space.
“The wheels started turning,” says Maitri. She wanted to bring back a dining space “for the neighborhood that showed up weekly and embraced all the shapes we had during the pandemic. I loved the idea of them in a dining room, engaging in a moment longer than just [our] return the bag of treats. But it’s also for the bakery team, and “everyone is delighted”.
The café will be a separate entity – they won’t be knocking down any walls – and customers will still be able to purchase take-out items from the bakery counter. They will branch out into making different types of pastries that wouldn’t be as appropriate as take-out baked goods – more types of sit-down desserts. She also plans sandwiches, quiches, soups, “long stews, one-bowl comfort foods and salads that could make a meal,” but says the menu “really scales.”
There are also plans for a back patio – a rare commodity on Monroe Street.
Maitri hopes construction on the new Monroe Street cafe will begin later this month for a late winter/early spring opening, although the availability of materials could alter that schedule.
Maitri started Bloom Bake Shop in Middleton in 2010, opening the Monroe Street store in 2017. The Middleton store went through some changes and closed in 2018. Bloom also sells at the Monroe Street Farmers Market and via the Bloom Bus. Maitri is also a partner in a new project at North Street and Commercial Avenue with Young Blood Beer Company and Cafe Domestique; staff will bring baked goods and sandwiches to the Eken Park location (scheduled to open later this fall) from Monroe Street. She describes the new space as sunny and “lounge” and she is excited about the space’s potential as a community gathering space.
Fostering community is important to Maitri. Earlier this year, she opened the Monroe Street Bakery for a “Tiny Bakery” concert series; she brought the Bloom bus to Wingra Park on Tuesdays at 6 a.m. to promote Wingra boats and paddling as good exercise; and she helped organize “Music by the Water” at Wingra Park last summer. “It didn’t feel like work. It was just a few emails and everyone showed up and did their part.
It sounds like a lot of irons in the fire, but Maitri operates on what feels right to her as well as her business acumen. Back at a cafe on Monroe Street, she says, “it feels like coming home.”