I saw them as I turned the corner onto Eighth Street, bunched around the doors of the new bakery, standing in twos or threes in a sort of haphazard line. Some were breaking pieces off baguettes there on the sidewalk, or taking bites of some roll filled with dark chocolate. Others were waiting to go in; but everyone was talking with everyone else as if they were all old friends.
The bells in the church tower just a couple blocks away chimed 11 as I approached, finally feeling myself relax after a hectic Saturday morning in the newsroom. For about three hours I’d been typing police reports, scrambling to decode obituaries, calling recalcitrant police officers and firefighters and ending with a more helpful coroner just past deadline, leaving me typing frantically as the minutes ticked by.
But I’d been planning to stop by Six Hand Bakery since midweek, when I’d done a story about the new business and smelled sticky buns or cinnamon rolls baking in the industrial oven.
So mid-morning on a brilliantly sunny but chilly October Saturday, I took my place in the back of the slow-moving line.
I don’t know what it is about a place like the bakery that changes ordinary strangers I’d pass any other day in silence into chatty neighbors, but everyone was talking. One lady, who bought bread from the bakers before they set up their own shop, was expounding on the experience the others in line were about to enjoy. The man in front of me, when he learned I work for the paper, started chatting about industry problems and had I heard about the non-profit news organizations cropping up here and there?
A group of boys hung by the window, watching the Madeline’s disappear from the glass plates. Just an hour in, and they were running low.
Smiling faces appeared in the doorway, pushing out past those pushing in, baguette tops peeking out over grocery-store bags or the brown paper bags from inside. One or two carried fabric-covered baskets, ready to take home more than just a sampling.
Finally inside, I ordered a chocolate-filled roll before hurrying back outside, down the sidewalk, to my car and to home for a mid-morning snack, hoping it was as good as it looked, and worth the wait.
But just as worth the wait was watching that little bread-loving community form in an instant on a sunny morning sidewalk outside a brand new bakery on its opening day.