Gingerbitz, an eat-in bakery launched on Elm Street more than four years ago by a New Canaan couple, is to close Friday. Karen Zuckert said she and her husband, Andrew, have forged many new friendships through the business and “are very sorry to leave.”
“We really wanted to create something very special for the town,” she saId. “We live in town, we care about it. It’s disappointing. There is just not enough business in town to keep going and to the standard that we would like to keep it.”
Named after a sobriquet that had been bestowed on Karen by her late father-in-law, Donald Zuckert, the cozy shop offered her signature baked goods—including custom cakes, cupcakes and cookies—as well as an eclectic menu of sandwiches, salads, coffees and more.
The committee that developed, managed and advocated on behalf of the Pop Up Park downtown—recently securing approval to keep it in place through the summer—is suspending those plans indefinitely after a group of merchants in town voiced opposition. According to a letter obtained by NewCanaanite.com that’s signed by 16 business owners downtown—most of them retailers, including Elm Street Books owner Susan Rein and Pimilico owner Jill Saunders (see full letter below, as well as those who added their names to it)—the Pop Up Park in occupying the final block of South Avenue at Elm Street obstructs traffic, blocks parking and displaces an important loading zone. While complimenting Pop Up Park Committee members for their passion and diligence, these merchants say, the park itself “hampers business” because its visitors do not patronize local shops and restaurants. “If it continues much longer, the small-town charm of New Canaan’s downtown is going to be overrun by big box chains just like many other towns in our area,” according to the letter, dated June 1. “The look of the Park does nothing to enhance the visual appeal of town,” the letter said.
For this installment of Biz on Biz, we caught up with two New Canaan businesses, Design Solutions and New Canaan Olive Oil. When we peeked our heads in Design Solutions we spoke with the owner, Pauline Dora and asked her about her favorite businesses in town. Pauline immediately commented that she loved all of the local businesses in New Canaan, but her favorite meal would have to be from Gingerbitz, the bakery across the street from her store on Elm Street. “Gingerbitz, they have great food,” Pauline said. When asked what she liked at the bakery Pauline told the New Canaanite that the salad was her favorite.
New Canaanites have plenty of reasons to shop and dine locally, and those reasons go far beyond the fact that the village center has scores of independent businesspeople—retailers, restaurateurs, service providers—who work here and have had a tough go with the weather these past few weeks. Our owners-on-site specialize in their fields and offer a wide range of expertise. They support most every community event that locals associate with the town—fishing derby, Waveny summer concerts, Santa’s visit, little league, Holiday Stroll, ice cream social, Halloween Parade. It’s hard to find two important community events in a row in New Canaan that aren’t sponsored in some way by Walter Stewart’s, Karl Chevy or both. Because familiarity breeds conversation and rapport, we can come to know our local small business owners and workers better than we may at, say, out-of-town chains. The slideshow above is a testament to that strong connection—click through to learn more about some of those who make up the economic lifeblood of the business district.
Karen Zuckert describes the eat-in bakery that she and husband Andrew soft-opened Saturday on Elm Street as “an extension of our home.”
Asked what it feels like to open a physical storefront after “hiding in the kitchen” (her words) for 21 years, earning a loyal following for her artistic baked goods, Karen said, “It’s like a homecoming.”
“I’m happy to see all my customers come here and see them so excited when they walk through the door. It’s meaningful,” Karen said Thursday afternoon as Gingerbitz filled up quickly with passersby catching sight of the newly opened shop through its street-facing, floor-to-ceiling windows. Nestled in the former Caroline’s Créperie space, the elegant Gingerbitz occupies what had been the only vacant (or at least non-operating) street-level commercial storefront on Elm between Main and Park. Open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Gingerbitz includes 15 seats (there’ll be eight more out front if and when Spring arrives), features fresh “moody blues” (garden roses) on the tables, area artists’ work (for sale) on the walls, found materials-made light fixtures and clock, and its edible offerings are anchored by Karen’s baked goods. With chef Ashley Boucaud (trained at Providence, RI-based Johnson & Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts), the Zuckerts offer an eclectic menu: sandwiches (imported French brie and ham, roast chicken); salads (fresh goat cheese, marinated tomato tart on field greens), organic smoothies (soon), fresh-squeezed juices, Stumptown coffees, soft-serve ice cream, pots of tea, chutneys and of course, pastries and baked goods (Karen works with Guittard chocolate).