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Bakers' Best cafe in Newton closes, as focus switches to catering

Posted by Leslie Anderson  December 13, 2011 04:24 PM

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Diners have long gathered at Bakers’ Best in Newton Highlands for a taste of the cafe's all-natural hand-carved turkey, chicken and grape salad, and various soups. But when the doors locked for the night Monday, the cafe closed for good.

This is not the end of Bakers’ Best, just a new direction. While the cafe has closed, the full-service and corporate catering business based out of Needham will take the spotlight.

“Bakers’ Best no longer has a Newton presence. But we're still around and are looking forward to working with everybody for a long time,” said Michael Baker, owner and founder of the company.

The company has been looking for a buyer for the cafe since announcing in August that the Lincoln Street location would close. Baker said he is hoping to sell the cafe to someone who plans to provide breakfast, lunch, and diner for the residents.

But Bakers’ Best is on the lease for another four years. If the company cannot find a buyer, the space will remain closed.

Baker said that by the end, the cafe only created about 10 percent of the company's business. About five years ago, Bakers' Best built a 10,000-square-foot commissary on 150 Gould Street in Needham to expand its catering service. Since then, Bakers’ Best has moved in a new direction.

“Most of our business is in full-service and corporate catering. We literally send out 100 plus deliveries a day all over Boston,” said Baker. Customers of the catering service includes various Boston hedge funds, colleges, and hospitals.

Because of the company’s new focus on catering, Baker said less focus was paid on the Newton cafe, which contributed to its closing.

“I think it's a positive step on our part because the catering has been so strong and it's just a direction that we have chosen to go into,” he said.

Baker’s decision was not easy. He said that he has received a ton of saddened responses about the store's closing from his loyal customers. “We have been there for almost 28 years," he said. "Families have been coming in forever. A lot of people are sad about it.”

But ultimately the store consumed too much time for the revenue it generated. The number of people coming into the cafe was unpredictable, creating difficulties in day-to-day staffing and often causing food to go to waste.

“The decision was something that was hard and we are going to miss all the people, and the day-to-day interactions with everybody. But things go on and things change,” said Baker.

Bakers’ Best began as a small 500-square-foot storefront in 1984 on Lincoln Street. The cafe moved across the road in 1994, more than doubling its size, where it has been located until yesterday’s closing.

In 2001, the Newton store expanded, doubling in size and adding additional seating and the business’s catering kitchen. But the business continued to grow, eventually forcing the catering business to move to its Needham commissary.

“The business has literally grown 10 to 15 percent a year, every year,” said Baker.

In 2010, Bakers’ Best marked its second highest grossing year to date, and the company’s percentage of sales from catering had never been greater, the company said.

Today marked the first day the company is no longer a part of Newton Highlands. Baker said the emotions are starting to sink in. “Its going to be a change in lifestyle for me.”

But Baker, who is a Newton resident himself, said he will not forget the residents of the city who have made the business what it is today.

“We have come a long way and without all of the people from Newton, we would not be able to do what we are doing now,” he said.

“The gratitude for all of the people that have actually come into the store for all of the years and the families,” he said, “it was not an easy decision and I cannot thank them enough.”

People can still enjoy the same food items from the Newton location at the Needham commissary. Orders can be taken over the phone at 617-332-4588.

Derek McLean can be reached at dbmclean1@gmail.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @NewtonUpdate

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