Sometimes the restaurant fairy smiles on a new endeavor. Other times "she shits on you," says Michel Mahe. With last month's opening of the Lobby in Middlebury, he says, the fairy smiled on him. But in the last weekend in February, Mahe closed a restaurant for the first time. Adjacent to Mahe's the Bearded Frog Bar & Grill in Shelburne, Next Door Bakery was one of six restaurants he has owned in Vermont.
Mahe says that Shelburne parking regulations prevented him from keeping Next Door open in the evening. "It served a very good market with a very good product, but the market was too small because of our inability to open at night," he explains. Mahe is still paying rent on the space and says he hopes to install a new business there soon — perhaps an e-cigarette shop or another company selling baked goods.*****
Burlington's August First Bakery & Café is known for its baguettes, fresh sandwiches and Hungarian sweet rolls. But to many locals, it has been just as valuable as a spot to settle in for a work session. The prevalence of laptops may have helped customers do their own business, but, according to August First co-owner Jodi Whalen, it was detrimental to hers.
To discourage squatting, Whalen did away with the café's Wi-Fi — but customers grabbed hot spots using their phones. "We still see people stay for hours," Whalen complains. "One day not too long ago, there were seven individuals with laptops not buying anything, and we watched customers leave."
The solution? Last week, Whalen declared on social media that August First will officially be screen-free as of March 31. Despite a few naysayers, Facebook fans overwhelmingly supported the idea. "As a highly screen-dependent person, I support this move. And when I need the screen, guess it will just be a lemon scone to go!" wrote one.
Whalen says customers will still be welcome to use their phones, but laptops, iPads and Kindles will soon be a thing of the past at August First.
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