When Annemarie Maitri, owner of Bloom Bake Shop, was a kid, her father would tell her, "If you can read, you can cook."
Her ability to follow recipes gave her the confidence to be fearless in the kitchen, she said, but "as I’ve grown older, you come to realize not everybody can (read), not everybody has that luxury."
That's why her original Bloom Bake Shop in Middleton won't be "Bloom Bake Shop" in a couple of weeks.
It’ll be “Bloom Bindery,” a cookie bakery, coffeehouse and bookstore. The for-profit company has a mission to promote a love of reading, with a portion of cookie sales going to local literacy initiatives. The shop will open on Friday, June 1.
Bloom Bindery will be open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will serve cookies and ice cream cookie sandwiches. Just Coffee and Rishi will supply coffee and tea. (In a Facebook post announcing the news, Maitri noted there will also be cocoa, soda and “you got it, ice cold organic milk.”)
Maitri started her businesses in the tiny Middleton location at 1834 Parmenter St. But between breakfast sandwiches, catering for weddings and daily bakery production, the business grew “exponentially” and was too small for the space.
That’s when Bloom opened their cafe location at 1851 Monroe St., but it left Maitri managing full bakery production and early-morning starts at two locations, which was exhausting.
Maitri closed the Middleton shop in November for a chance to reevaluate the space and its use. It was a little scary to close a thriving bakery, she said, but she needed “the clarity when you walk away from something.”
Two things were clear. First, as long as the Middleton Bloom remained operating in its original business model, it would inevitably continue to grow out of its space. Second, Maitri wasn’t going to abandon the shop.
“I wasn’t done with that space or our commitment to Middleton,” she said.
She laughs when she talks about people who have asked her if she would turn the Middleton shop into a cafe like Monroe Street.
“Do you remember how tiny it is? We really had no business doing breakfast sandwiches there,” she said.
A trip to Portland, Oregon brought some clarity on what to do. Shopping in Portland, she realized, “I don’t really covet things, but I covet books,” a realization likely aided by her stop at the famous Powell’s Books.
Books from Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Shel Silverstein (she loved Silverstein’s books to the extent that “nobody could check it out because I had it all the time”) were “kind of my friend and saved me from a shy childhood.”
Later in life, she became passionate about promoting literacy. A percentage of all cookie sales at both Bloom locations will support literacy efforts, Maitri said.
Maitri is meeting with Jeff Burkhart, the executive director of the Literacy Network of Dane County, and said she wants to support existing literacy programs rather than reinvent the wheel, she said.
She’s not entirely sure what that will look like yet, but she’s excited by the possibilities. It could mean creating a space for tutoring, or sending the Bloom bus across the city to give incentives (like milk and cookies) to kids who complete reading programs.
Joanne Berg, owner of Mystery to Me Bookstore at 1863 Monroe St., will curate a small selection of books to sell in the Middleton shop. Book profits will go to Berg, which Maitri loves because it’s supporting another woman in business.
Along with books for sale, there will be a few books that live in the store, so customers can page through them and not worry about leaving a trail of cookie crumbs, Maitri said. Berg and Maitri will also invite guest authors to the store, hold book clubs and set up weekly story times.
Maitri’s pretty much surrounded by books at home, so to be surrounded by books at work as well is a dream come true, she said.