Hundreds of small, square, colored sticky notes bring a personal touch, a warm connection and a sweet remembrance from over the years about this iconic tiny bakery at 805 Moonstone Beach Road in Matunuck.
“Thank You So Much!!!” began neat printed penmanship on one. “This made my day. I grew up down the street and used to save my allowance to come ride my bike down to get cimn. (sic) Rolls.”
“I haven’t been able to have this deliciousness in over 20 years. Today is the best day ever!!” signed simply Jared Stroble.
Another pink note reads, “Went here in the 70’s — still the same vibe.” Hand-drawn next to the words is a heart as well as peace symbol, which was popular in that era when the United States was exiting an unpopular war in Vietnam.
Laying on a pile of other sticky notes, the electric blue color shouts out this inscription:
“Thank you from Dawn, Ethan & Heather,” adding in Italian, “Buano come il pane!” about being good as bread.
Then there are others whose debt of both money and gratitude comes in a quick scribble. “Owe 3 only had large bills. T 7/3/20” while another says “I’ll pay for 1 honey white & 1 apple cinn. Via PayPal. Thank you.”
It’s all about being Daddy’s Bread.
Bread is More than Bread
Winding Moonstone Beach Road off of Route 1 in South Kingstown leads past pastures, new houses under construction, old houses that have lined the road for decades, tall grass fields and eventually intersecting with Matunuck School House Road.
Right there, looking abandoned is 805, with its three cottages overgrown with trees, grass and shrubs that block the buildings from easy sight, but locals and visitors alike know that Daddy’s Bread is right in the middle.
It has been there since the mid-1970s when school teacher and principal Everett J. Hopkins started a true cottage industry of making many varieties of bread. He also tapped into a history of bread making dating back perhaps 30,000 years and he accented a much more recent history teaching fidelity to values and honesty in character.
He asked only that customers pay on the honor system, a tradition that also carries forward to today. There’s no cashiers or attendants in the sweet-smelling 10-foot-by-10-foot room displaying the fresh baked goods to visitors opening the door where metal bread racks take up much of the space.
Daddy’s Bread is a true South County iconic hobby-turned-small enterprise operated out of a building framed around a train caboose and run chiefly by the large hearts of Hopkins and family members.
All honored the secret recipe of giving that involved food. Daddy’s Bread also brings a taste of South County to life where rural traditions and friendships meant trust and connections by giving to your neighbors and friends.
Keeping It Going
“My father started baking to clear his mind of his stressful work as a teacher and principal at Hamilton School in North Kingstown in the ’70s,” said daughter Jennifer Manzo, 52.
She, along with her niece and Hopkins granddaughter, 28-year-old Ashley Taylor, nearly a half-century later carry on his homespun tradition of baking bread and selling it on the honor system.
His early bread-making was a hit with many friends, co-workers and family members, including one daughter who used to insist, “I want daddy’s bread.” From her frequent request, came the name of his bakery and the start of a local tradition.
Manzo said her father was a cultivator of fresh watercress grown on the nearby family property, Colonial Mill Farm, where a roadside bread stand first made its appearance.
“He just wanted to do it because he believed in people and wanted to share something important to them and one way to do that is through food,” said Manzo, adding that he never had big ideas of selling the bread through supermarkets or other outlets.
“After the town and the laws of business came down on him, he was forced to move up the road to another piece of property he owned where the bakery is located now,” Manzo recalled about the property at 805 Moonstone Beach Road and that her grandfather owned.
“When he moved the bread making and it became a bread bakery, he kept that tradition of “the honor system” with the bakery. Though they (the bread loafs) were a tiny bit smaller in weight then, I believe the amount made then was pretty significant,” she said.
In the old days there were drinks, sandwiches and other goodies people bought there for trips to nearby Moonstone Beach, which was a nude beach at the time he opened and until the late 1980s.
“Things were busier in a different way when Moonstone Beach was open,” Manzo said and in the years after the beach closed, bread became the only item sold. A small oven and few mixing bowls support producing the rows of loaves in the small shop, usually open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, though hours can fluctuate, she said.
Other changes, though, included her father passing the business to her years ago, Manzo said, and now she has run it longer — entering her 22nd year — than he did.
Manzo said that each day the amounts and kinds of bread baked vary.
It takes two hours to bake Daddy’s Bread from start to finish. She uses only one mixer and hand chops the apples, fruits, spices and grains that go into the all-natural, chemical-free breads, and no dairy or egg.
She said that she “defies all logic and rules” to bread baking when it comes to creating the nearly 20 varieties, including watercress herb, apricot raisin and the popular blueberry apple cinnamon and parmesan-dill-garlic.
“Maybe that is why it is different,” Manzo says. “All the different things together are what makes it what it is. There is no one secret, it is many.”
Estimates about the amount needed are now pretty solid, she said. “I’ve become pretty good at predicting how much to have made based on the weather forecast. Sounds crazy, but it’s true! The process I’ve gotten down to a science.”
Certain flavors with different rising abilities affect how long it takes to make some loaves, she said. “Some explode and some take longer depending on what’s in them and how heavy the air is going to be,” Manzo explained, confiding it all comes a little experimentation.
“Sometimes we have flops, but oh well,” she added with a laugh.
“A holiday weekend can be crazy, so it’s got to be dealt with on day-to-day” basis, she noted with precise accuracy as cars with license plates from Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and many other states pulled into the dirt driveway late one recent Saturday morning.
People quickly pulled up a mask, which some said blunts their favorite part — inhaling the scent of freshly baked bread — and perused the offerings of the day.
They deposited cash, others a check, still others used a phone for online payments to PayPal or Venmo, suggested by Manzo who leaves written instructions on how to do it. She also has a sign about theft, warning people that the bakery is monitored, though she rarely has a problem with it these days, she said.
Because the bread has no preservatives, it is generally good for about three to five days in the open air, 10 to 14 days in a refrigerator and about six months in a freezer, all of this posted on a small wood-framed notice on white paper, with green type and with blue checked border.
Like the baked items at Daddy’s Bread, even notices and the wood-planked display room have their special features, including colorful designs, sticky notes in every hue imaginable and the ever-present drift of the roasted cracker-like aroma of bread.
In “Why do we love the smell of bread?”, the Irish Times wrote that “the smell is almost universally loved and promotes a Pavlovian response in almost everyone because it prompts ‘odour-cued memories’ at a subconscious level which catapult people back to very specific points in their childhoods.”
A study by Irish scientists found bread is a staple food which features heavily in childhood, which is “why it is one of those smells that evokes such strong memories, particularly of family, childhood and comfort.”
In the study, a survey of 1,000 people, which accompanied the scientific analysis, found that 89 percent of people said the smell of bread made them happy with 63 percent saying it evoked happy memories.
Those taking part in the poll were asked for a word which they associated with those memories and 29 per cent identified the word “mum” or “mother” while one in five referenced the word “childhood.”
The name Daddy’s Bread may be more than just the simple coincidence of a young daughter once reveling in the taste of a favorite bread her father made.
Tastes and Memories
Customers, like Dottie Woodcock, who grew up in Matunuck and lives in Washington, D.C., fondly remembers the bakery over the years. She summers in South Kingstown and looks forward to weekly visits to the bakery.
It has, many said, that old-time corner-store feel that catered to a unique community.
“We all love that it’s here. I brought my grandchildren and picked out bread, put the money in the slot and they loved it,” she said on a recent Saturday about the parmesan-dill-garlic and apple cinnamon breads they bought.
Dominic Obertello of Westerly, as he got out of his car, said that he often makes the 25-minute trip to the bakery.
“My kids love the stuff. If you don’t get here early for the buns, they’re history. The cinnamon ones –they are to die for,” he said.
Customer Nancy Lavigne zeroed in the modest approach that brings a bakery service as much as an experience that long-ago disappeared from the American landscape, with the emergence of large grocery stores or specialty markets that pushed mom and pop stores out of business.
“I just think it’s quaint. I like the honor system. It’s a throwback you don’t see very often,” she said.
Keeping some form of the past alive is why sweat, work and early morning hours are part of the work for Manzo and Taylor producing loaves of this delicious table staple every week.
They aren’t quite ready to let Hopkins recede into the annals of history, Manzo admitted and Taylor agreed.
“I spent most of my young summer days down on Moonstone and was always sent to grab my grandfather a loaf of Hunny White,” said Taylor, who is also a baker of the breads. “I started off bagging the bread, so it was only natural that my hands ended up in the dough. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Family legacy is important, she explained. “I absolutely love being a part of this family legacy and hearing other people’s attachment to our bread. The kindness of this bakery has shaped me and continues to help me grow with every loaf.”
For Manzo, some recollections are more piercing.
“My hardest memory is, every, and I mean EVERY Friday evening my dad would hobble his way up ramp to the kitchen, thumping up with his cane —I can still hear it in my mind — to say ‘Hi’,” she remembered.
“He’d have a good laugh about something and grab his favorite loaf — Hunny White, my favorite, too — and a cinnamon roll only to hobble on out, ‘thump... thump... thump.’ The first Friday night after his passing was the hardest and most memorable experience I ever had at that bakery,” said his daughter.
Another is from a young man who many years ago stole a loaf of bread. It is a story that has endured through the years about the bakery, the teacher-turned-baker, and the teacher who believed in the ever-present value of honesty in the human character.
“It was addressed to my father. It read: ‘Dear Mr. Hopkins, When I was young, I stole from you’ and with it was a $20 bill attached and the person’s name. I think when all is said and done, that is what it is all about. My father is still teaching,” said Manzo.
Other memories flood in, too. There’s a book in which people write their names and there’s also all those many sticky notes with messages from years past and that come every day its open.
“I have kept them since my first stint in the bakery for the summers of ’95 and ’96. I have all the note books, too,” she said, adding “I have so many memorable experiences it would take a week to tell them all to you.”
The memories are all part of who she was, who she is and who she has become.
“To be ‘Daddy’ has become part of who I am, but only secretly,” she said about her desire to hold to the tradition of no one seeing anyone at the bakery or associating a face with it that could rob the impression of “just the experience of being there.”
“I do it for him. To keep my father and his legacy alive and present. Especially in these times now when mom and pop businesses are fading and silently dying, I will do what I have to do to keep it alive,” she said.