There’s a sign over the door of a new bakery in Richmond with a rolling pin and a logo: “Taste of Passion.” Come inside to see the reason why! Like most “overnight successes,” Lisa Gulisano Curtis’s ownership of a new café and bakery in Richmond is a perfect example of pluck, luck and passion. In the role of a working mother who loves her extended family and lives to make her customers happy, Lisa has created an eatery that appears to be an overnight success. Her delicious homemade-style cookies, cakes and breakfast specialties are the centerpiece of a six-year adventure.
Lisa was working for Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility before she became a baker. As internship coordinator, she initiated the first Local Vermont program for VBSR with a coupon book that profiled the businesses encouraging local products. The coupon book provided early support for the “buy local” movement in the state. The project also showed Lisa’s ability to see and act on an opportunity to build and strengthen community.
That success inspired Lisa to seek a new challenge and nd another way to contribute to her Vermont community. Lisa’s family had always been involved in making good food. As she says, “We’re a big Italian-American family!” Her chef-brother owned a building in Waits eld, housing his res- taurant, the Green Cup, along with Scout’s Honor Creamery. A er the renovation due to damage incurred during Tropical Storm Irene, Lisa opened Sweet Simone’s in the same space as Scout’s Honor Creamery in her brother’s building as part of the Sweet Spot.
In 2014, Lisa heard that On The Rise Bakery, a much-loved café and purveyor of baked goods in Richmond, had closed its doors. It seemed to Lisa like a good time to move Sweet Simone’s—named after her great-grandfather—to a new location. Besides, she and her husband, John, and their two daughters, Liv and Charley, lived in Huntington, a shorter commute!
She found the right location on Bridge Street, a block away from the old On The Rise Bakery. Turning a ho-hum storefront rental into a cozy meeting place for locals didn’t sound that diffcult ... until she looked around and realized what it took.
She poured herself into seeking, bartering or trading the skills and sweat equity necessary to transform what was humble into something special. Her hard work ethic, a family trait, was put to good use in the months it took to complete the renovation. Once the bakery was up and running, Lisa persuaded her mother, a good home cook and important in uence on her love of food, to help with the annual holiday cookie-baking blitz.
Everyone pitched in: Her father sanded and stained the original oors a er four layers of wood and tile were peeled off. Her parents and friends worked with paint scrapers to strip a brick wall down to its original sur- face, which now gives character to the dining area furnished with polished steel-topped tables and bright red-lacquered chairs. The ceiling tiles that date from another century have become the “surround” of the wide counter in the center of the room showcasing the gleaming glass and metal bakery cases, the main attraction.
The most impressive part of the renovation is the kitchen itself. Lisa and Ryan Salerno, baker and back-end manager of the café, with input from the kitchen staff, created an e cient and homey room. Thanks to the bustle and delicious fragrance of baking, it’s easy to overlook the high-end profes- sional equipment. In fact, the room is like a busy home-kitchen that feeds a very large family, her customers!
Already famous for her coconut cupcakes, Lisa didn’t stop there with her menu. The list is long but every one of the offerings baked each day is worth trying. Two of the delicious breakfast treats that are unusually well made are the bagels and the croissants.
Besides making the handmade bagels, perfectly cooked by boiling rst and then baking, Ryan Salerno is a master at producing the crisp layers of a real croissant using good butter and lots of lamination. is blending of layers of butter into the dough forms a perfect rise. At Sweet Simone’s the croissants are as close to Paris as you can get and still be in Vermont.
The unfailing commitment of both Lisa and the sta she calls “a very passionate and dedicated team” makes Sweet Simone’s a leader in the highly competitive bakery café world of Vermont. e variety of chocolate, coconut and a selection of gluten-free cupcakes make stopping off in Richmond the next time you’re on I-89 a must. Don’t go home without a few Morning Glory muffns, a box of scones or the tantalizing tartlets in assorted avors of chocolate, berry or other sea- sonal fruits. And you can’t pass up the granola bars, chocolate truffles and cookies—handmade Oreos, ginger molasses and chocolate chip are always on the menu.
The cakes produced for every occasion are a good reason to keep coming back, if only to see the unique and whimsical designs. It’s as though the sta has a magic genie who comes out to play when making special event cakes.
For originality, quality, charm and avor, you cannot nd a sweeter place or a more welcoming and comfortable café than Sweet Simone’s.
Bronwyn and Laurie are both dreaming of going back to Sweet Simone’s for more boxes of Morning Glory muffins, the best they’ve ever eaten!