Eric Peavey likes to make Market Square Bakehouse’s fantastically indulgent Queen rolls in the wee hours of the morning, when no one is around, because it makes a terrible mess.
“As I roll out the dough, sugar just flies everywhere,” says Peavey, who co-owns the Amesbury bakery-cafe? with Tanya Tzitzon. “I don’t even measure—I just keep dumping sugar on.” The Queen is the bakery’s nickname for a kouignamann, a classic French laminated pastry. Shaped like a muffin with a pointy crown, the Queen’s size belies its complexity—the dough is comprised of 90 to 100 layers. Crisp and flakey on the outside, gooey soft and caramel-like on the inside, the only complaint customers have about the sweet treats is that they are just too small. So Peavey started making a larger one they call the King, which flies off the shelves even faster.
Since opening in December, Peavey and Tzitzon haven’t taken a break— the Bakehouse has stayed open and busy seven days a week, even when winter’s many blizzards made downtown Amesbury all but impassable.
“We’ve been surprised at how popular it’s been,” Tzitzon says. “We planned on it being very small at first.” The pair, who met and hatched the idea for the cafe? while working at Newburyport’s Joppa Fine Foods, thought they would be able to run the whole business with perhaps one or two part-time employees. But in just two months, they added four employees, and are likely to be hiring more this spring with the advent of evening hours on the weekends.
Tzitzon says demand for a later closing has been there since the start, but the partners want to roll things out slowly, to make sure they don’t compromise the quality that has made them so popular. “The community really wants us to extend our hours,” Tzitzon says, “but by 3 p.m. every day, we are just spent.”
That’s not surprising when you peruse the shop’s offerings: Donut muffins, mini quiches, scones, croissants, the King and Queen rolls, fresh-baked bread, and six or seven kinds of cookies, plus a lunch menu with nine panini (made on different types of house-baked bread), two soups, and several salads. All the condiments are also made in-house, and they even strain their own yogurt for breakfast parfaits.
That adds up to a lot of long days. As the baker, Peavey, who grew up in his father’s Haverhill bakery and uses many of his dad’s recipes, arrives around 3 a.m. Tzitzon, whose experience includes time assisting chefs at Stonewall Kitchen in York, Maine, handles the bulk of the cooking and prep, arriving at 6 a.m. By the time the first customers arrive at 7 a.m., sweet smells waft to the high ceilings, breakfast wraps are ready for the grill, the restaurant’s popular curry chicken is made up, and the coffee is on, as the former mill space fills with a steady stream of customers.
For its caffeine-craving early birds, the Bakehouse serves Counter Culture Coffee. Tzitzon is especially proud of the high-tech equipment and training necessary to make each cup, not to mention the array of custom hot drinks made from carefully sourced ingredients. The Dirty Chai—White Heron Chai tea with a shot of espresso—for instance, has quickly become a town favorite. “Amesbury loves a Dirty Chai,” Tzitzon says with a laugh.
A laid-back vibe in the welcoming space, free Wi-Fi, and a short but thoughtful selection of craft beers and wine all invite lingering, which is exactly the cafe?’s intent. “We thought Amesbury needed a place where you could sit down and eat lunch,” or just relax over a cup of coffee or a beer, Tzitzon says. Beer and wine were especially popular during the spate of snow days this winter. With the snowbanks finally receding, regulars are itching to take advantage of the longer days on the outdoor patio. Perhaps with an iced Dirty Chai.