Since word got out last week that Paradise Bakery, a 38-year local institution, would be losing its lease on its downtown location in 2021, owner Mark Patterson said the community support he has encountered has been overwhelming.
Some customers even brought flowers to the cozy bakery counter adjacent to the open corner of Cooper Avenue and Galena Street, while expressing a range of emotions from disbelief to outrage to encouragement and many thanks.
“It kind of felt like being at your own memorial,” Patterson wrote in an email. “It is so special to be appreciated.”
The memorial may be premature, however, as Patterson has been in discussions with another landlord about moving to another location after 2021 that would be bigger and arguably better.
Both Patterson and Mark Hunt, who controls corporations that own numerous downtown properties, confirmed that they have been in preliminary discussions about relocating Paradise to 305 S. Mill St., the current home of the Gray Lady restaurant, after that and a neighboring building are remodeled.
“I think they would be great to have,” Hunt said. He referenced the business’ strong local following and the potential for them to expand their offerings into more food service and seating area. The space at the corner of Mill Street and Hyman Avenue pedestrian malls, next to the town’s “dancing fountain” that is already popular with families in the summertime, “could be a great opportunity for them,” Hunt said.
“They would be a great tenant,” Hunt said. “I think they will find something if the owners have the energy to do it again.”
Securing a new location would be music to the ears of those who have been lamenting the impending loss of Paradise’s lease and pointing to it as a sign of a community that is not well.
Patterson has been working in the shop for some portion of every day since the upcoming lease cancellation was first reported last Thursday. Almost every guest had something to say about the situation, he said.
“It is not our way to be angry but the outpouring has been in the typical fashion,” Patterson wrote. “Our community cares, is passionate and comes forward with strong emotions when something isn’t right.”
The Pattersons learned in November that their lease would not be renewed after 2021. Their landlords, Andy and Nikos Hecht, who have owned the building since 2012, are instead planning to expand Loro Piana, a next-door Italian clothing company, into Paradise’s space. The landlords also are planning to replace P.E. 101, a locally owned clothing boutique also adjacent to Paradise, with a gelato and bakery shop.
Patterson wrote that there was never a negotiation with the Hechts. He and his brother, who co-own the shop together, “offered to pay an increased rent, however we were never presented a proposal of what that might be,” though they asked.
Efforts to reach Andy Hecht for comment Monday and Tuesday were unsuccessful.
A year earlier, according to Patterson, the Hechts had offered Paradise the P.E. 101 space, where the gelato shop is now planned, but after reviewing it with architects, they determined that the smaller spot would not fit their needs. The owners “determined that it would be impossible to operate in a smaller space than we currently occupy,” Patterson wrote.
Besides Hunt, the Pattersons have “spoken with several of the commercial core landowners or representatives in the last week,” Patterson wrote. “It’s all encouraging. What we can afford to build and afford to pay in this next chapter for Paradise is another question. Starting over isn’t going to be easy!”
Hunt said “it is what it is,” when asked for his take on the Paradise news. He conceded that “it would be sad for them never to come back,” but added, “a lot of times here, change is like the world is ending.”
“I don’t think it has to be that way,” he said. “For locals that do well and have a strong following, they always seem to land on their feet.”
As for the vitality experienced on the Paradise corner, Hunt said that too could be fluid.
“A place like Paradise Bakery … if they plant their flag somewhere else that will be the new hangout spot.”