Relationships with customers bloom at Bloom Bake Shop

A guest column in Madison Magazine by Annemarie Maitri
exterior of Bloom Bake Shop with a group of customers at a walk up window
Photo by Katie Gardner

By Annemarie Maitri

I ​​walk to work most days, just as the sun is beginning its climb. In that first light I approach my bakery, catch sight of Bloom Bake Shop’s turquoise awning and am filled with anticipation of what the day might hold. I’m not just eager to create, smell and savor baked goods — I’m excited for the connections we’ll get to make as we share our food with others.

In a TED Talk I recently heard, titled “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness,” I was intrigued as Robert Waldinger, an American psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School, explained that “social connections are really good for us … It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected.”

stack of bread in bloom's bakery

Photo by Katie Gardner

This resonated with me because I have always believed the purpose of Bloom was more than satiating a sweet craving and more than making transactions. Opening Bloom in 2010 was a direct manifestation of all that I love. It goes without saying that I love baking. Bloom grew from a strong desire for connection, a fierce responsibility to my community and a curiosity to grow as an individual. One piece could not exist without the other.

There is a reason “breaking bread” is considered a sign of peace. Eating together while sharing stories, fostering relationships and building bridges is a universal way to nurture and grow our bonds with those we love and even those we don’t know well. The stories around our food and these connections are endless. Many are joyous: birthday celebrations, engagements and happy gatherings. Some are painful or solemn: occasions honoring loss, grappling with loneliness or dealing with unexpected changes. All of these moments are part of how we mark the love and care we have for one another.

When I get the privilege to bake someone’s birthday cake year after year, or to make their favorite biscuit sandwich each weekend, or to hand them their daily morning bun, I get to know them well — and they get to know me and our team. Last fall, a student named Katie we’d come to know over her years at the University of Wisconsin–Madison dropped in to pick up pastries. She gave us a beautiful watercolor that she had created for my partner, Mark, and me when she heard we were getting married. After she graduated, her mom wrote me a letter and shared, “I hope you felt in a small way how Bloom is a catalyst for families and friends sharing the joy of life in the now.” All I can say is, “We do.”

person working on baked goods in bloom's bakery

Photo by Katie Gardner

Every day, it’s our privilege to foster a space that welcomes the community we love. We look forward to Mike coming by for his cinnamon rolls and one ginger molasses cookie, or Pinto and Beans popping their noses in the takeout window for their weekly doggie biscuits. We also love the unanticipated surprises. Like when Kacie came in the day I wrote this and, as she caught sight of the butter croissants in the bakery case, started dancing as if she was floating on air. Her joy was contagious, and we all began to dance and move with her in the bakery.

If Waldinger’s statement rings true, the relationships established at Bloom under a turquoise awning over a cup of coffee, on a picnic blanket with buttermilk biscuits or at the farmers’ market with a fresh bag of pastries are much more than little moments of joy.

They are the key ingredients for building a long, happy and very nourished life together.

Annemarie Maitri is the owner of Bloom Bake Shop, a bakery and cafe on Monroe Street serving French-style pastries, American classics and fresh daily bread.

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