About five weeks ago, Erin Emerson quietly opened Bug & Belle Bakery, a quaint and tiny shop in West Highland with a few chairs and tables and a pastry case brimming with gluten-free quiches, cookies, scones, muffins, rolls and other delights.
"I think people have started to notice we're here, and it's been good," says Emerson, a self-taught baker, as she takes a break from her stand mixer to chat over the sunny counter. "The farmers' market has been especially great."
Inside the bakery, the walls sport a mismatch of wallpaper patterns and the menu above the counter is written in colorful magnetic letters spelling out the day's specials. Four red stools offer hightop seating, and some cozy chairs and tables are tucked to the right of the counter against an exposed brick wall.
"We wanted it to feel like you're walking into Mom or Grandma's kitchen and have it be comfortable," says Emerson, who has lived in the neighborhood for fifteen years. She also wants the place to cater to all sorts of diets, which is why a gluten-free potato crust forms the shell of the quiches and vegetarian savory pastries tempt customers looking for something less sugary. That is, as long as you get there early enough.
Late on a recent Thursday morning, Emerson's case was almost empty, and she was still a few hours from closing. A good sign, she says, as some days it's not quite so busy. Each weekend, the baker makes special cinnamon rolls, and on any given day, options include savory rolls in rotating flavors, such as green olive with fontina cheese or Gruyère with caramelized onions; gluten-free monster cookies chock-full of oats, peanut butter, M&Ms and chocolate chips; fresh muffins like lemon poppyseed or carrot whole wheat; various savory hand pies; and a whole slew of other tasty items that rotate frequently. Emerson opened Bug & Belle Bakery as a tribute to her two daughters, Neela, ten, who has the nickname "bug," and Olive, seven, whose middle name is Belle.
Emerson had always been into baking, but it took becoming a mom and taking care of toddlers to really get her making cookies, cakes and other baked goods on a regular basis.
"I started baking to take away the stress of [having] small children," says Emerson. "James, my husband, would come home and notice there was never dinner made, but there was always cake."
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Emerson bought the residential property in which the bakery is located two years ago. It took that much time for her and James to go through the paperwork and red tape to get the space certified for commercial use. Now it's going strong, and Emerson works there full-time with fellow baker Harry Briggs.
Aside from baked goods, the shop sells coffee from Copper Door Coffee, using a special blend made for the bakery for both hot drinks and cold brew coffee, along with Teakoe hot teas and cold barrel-brewed cans of tea. Guests can sip their drinks and nibble on an apricot oat bar in the shop or outside on one of the many chairs, or they can take them to go for later snacking.
Visit Bug and Belle Bakery Wednesday through Sunday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 3712 West 32nd Avenue. Call 720-710-8816 for more details.