SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Jeff Collins this week saw a longtime dream come true.
The baker of tasty foods — such as banana bread, various croissants and a variety of full- and half-loaf sourdough bread — opened his long-planned store, where customers formed standing-room-only lines out the door.
“It’s a family that walks the walk, not just talk the talk,” said friend and neighbor Sue Ruminoff of Wakefield, who came to see Collins and his wife, Keri Lyn, cut the ribbon at the 333 Main St. location in the center of Wakefield.
Until the opening last week, Jeff and Keri Lyn were running their South County Bread Company from a temporary home inside Kingston Pizza on Briar Lane.
The baker has been waiting — and searching — for a suitable place he could renovate into a bakery. Two months ago, he said, he found space that had once been a coffee shop.
Reasons to Love Bread
On hand to help kickoff the start was Joe Viele, executive director of the Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.
“I love the smell of bread. I think it just brings people together,” he said, looking at the stream of people file into the bakery. “I’m also excited for Main Street. I’ve always had this hope that this Main Street would be a lively as in any other community.”
He said Collins’ store joins the renovation and expansion of other Main Street businesses. These include Phil’s and Bol restaurants, Brinkley’s ice cream and The Contemporary Theater
Company. He said they are bringing a bustle to the downtown area by offering new experiences for those visiting.
In the last eight weeks, a bevy of friends, family and some tradespeople helped set up the bakery, install the ovens, snake electrical lines and craft specially-designed wooden counters — just to name a few of the tasks.
For those coming through the door for the first time, the wafting smell of baking dough gave most a twinge of hunger, they said, and a sense of excitement to explore this new business.
“I’m from San Francisco,” said Lauren Scowcroft of Narragansett, “and I miss sourdough. It’s so much harder to find out here.” Collins has made that task much easier by offering regular, seeded rye and cranberry nut loaves.
On hand for the opening was Steve Gregson of Saunderstown, who oversaw most of the major renovations to the store.
“I have to say that the ham and cheese croissant was the best ever — and it is,” he said with a smile.
A Passion Pursued
Standing nearby Gregson and there to give Jeff and Keri Lyn support was Keri Lyn’s father, Thomas Plunkett, formerly of South County and now living in Voluntown, Connecticut.
“I came in for the Morning Buns and the berry scone,” he said. He looked around the store and at the people nestled up to the display cases, which lead to a counter with a cash register.
“Jeff has a real passion for this. He’s at it day and night. I think he’s the best bread maker in the area, if I do say so myself,” Plunkett said with a grin — and with pride as he watched the two owners greet customers walking into the storefront door.
Nearby him was a stand with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, red raspberry strawberry jams, orange marmalade and relishes like Visalia onion and sweet pepper. Coffee is also available, as is soda and water.
In late October-early November last year, Collins opened the temporary shop in Kingston.
His father, Paul, mother, Jo-Ann, and wife helped him out. His father, also a baker, worked the ovens with him, while his mother and wife staffed the retail counters in the pizza parlor’s dining room.
COVID-19 restrictions prevented its use, so it became Collins’ launch pad. A former baker at Belmont Market in Wakefield, Collins had the itch to branch out on his own. He learned a lot, he said, while working at the market. Now it’s time to test his entrepreneurial skills with his own shop, he said.
“We’ve got a great start to our business,” Collins said. “We’re really looking forward to doing something great for our community.”
Alison Samuel of East Greenwich, just about to enter the bakery, agreed.
“It’s something new. I’m in the mood today for something new, just something I find that’s not in the supermarket,” she said.