Twenty-two years ago the doors of the Ryus Avenue Bakery opened, and it has been a reknowned fixture ever since, what customers Whalen and Laura Koonz described as “the heart and soul of La Veta.” Now it is closing its doors, with the last day being December 28, and residents and visitors alike mourn its passing, while at the same time thanking the owners for the wonderful years and wishing them the best in their next venture. Proprietors Adrienne Berkun and Mary Backiel didn’t set out to start a full-fledged bakery and deli when they purchased the old stone building in 1991. They had been renting a house on a ranch, where they had been doing some baking, selling their wares at Charlie’s Market, the Gardner School, and the bar in Gardner. They were looking for a place to live in La Veta and have good bread, they explained. They also wanted space to pursue the baking they had already been marketing, and for Mary to have a place to continue making patchwork jackets. The building, which dates from 1904, had formerly served as a general mercantile, a garage, and a locker plant. The only thing in it that could be used as a bakery was the marble counter-top. Mary and Adrienne had to remodel it, adding the ovens, sinks, and other equipment. They opened on July 4th, two months after they bought it. A well-known photograph, taken by a friend from California and tacked on a door in the Bakery, portrays the excitement of the new business owners. They started simply, with just the two of them working, but gradually they added lunches and hired more help. “It was a labor of love,” explains Mary. “We never raked in the money- often we barely made it, but it gave us a place to live, a way to stay in La Veta, and work we enjoyed doing. “Everything we do here, we start with flour and water and make things.” But it is a lot of hard work. Among the things they will remember most fondly are they people that have worked for them over the years and the customers that have returned over and over. “Once we got busy we always had a high school student working here, especially during the summer,” says Adrienne. “People like Shea Brgoch, who has been returning for seven years. We’ve watched them grow up.” Becky Bestol, chief pie maker and baker, has worked at the bakery for 14 years, doing just about everything there is to do. The French Annie Monnier, a most gracious customer greeter, counter person, and baker, has been here for thirteen years. “There have been countless others, many of them characters who have alternately complicated and enriched our lives.” Mary and Adrienne also appreciate the wonderful clients who have enabled them to do this for 22 years, whom they describe as “a parade of customers who have come through the bakery and through our lives.” Adrienne and Mary hope that someone else will want to continue the tradition. They do not plan on leaving La Veta, at least not any time soon. “ I look forward to sleeping more,” says Mary, who wakes up at 3 am to bake the breads and pastries for which the shop is famous. “Doing all the things I never have time to do,” adds Adrienne. It has been all-consuming, they explain. Both are looking forward to not having such a rigid schedule and, they smile, spending more time with their family, which mostly consists of two dogs and two parrots.
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