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Bristol bakery starts new chapter with new owner

BRISTOL — For almost eight years, Celina Ellison had been a big part of the recipe that has produced sweet success for Bristol Bakery on Main Street. Brothers Kevin and Doug Harper picked Ellison as their “house manager,” a role she would perform at both the original bakery on Bristol’s Main Street and at a Hinesburg spin-off that is also doing very well.
Well, the longtime manager has now become the new owner of the bakery, which she has renamed “Bristol Cliffs Café.”
While the foundational ingredients of the business will remain the same — tasty pastries and bagels, hot and cold beverages, hearty breakfast options and an eclectic mix of lunch sandwiches — she wanted a new name to remove potential confusion, as she will no longer be involved with the Hinesburg location that will continue to be known as “Bristol Bakery,” still under Harper ownership.
“I do like to tease her about the ‘New Management’ sign she’s posted on the door, since she’s been the manager for most of the nine years I’ve had the bakery,” Kevin wrote in a recent email about the transaction.
It was a very smooth transaction that has led to a seamless transition, Ellison noted during a brief interview at her café.
“Things just kind of fell together,” she said. “(The Harpers) talked to me about it … and I said, ‘Let’s go for it.’”
Ellison will strive to make her own mark on Bristol Cliffs Café. And she’ll have some good help.
Bill Perta will continue to serve as Ellison’s right-hand man. He needs no introduction to folks who have dined at Middlebury College; Perta spent a 40-year career cooking at the institution before recently retiring.
His specialty has been cooking soups, though Perta has the background to pitch in with other food prep chores. And it doesn’t stop there; Perta can also troubleshoot kitchen appliances, and he’ll help Ellison plan some new offerings at Bristol Cliffs Café likely to include some pop-up dinners and occasional entertainment.
They have an experienced person heading up the kitchen who is also well known in Addison County: Sama Hayyat, former owner of Sama’s Market & Deli at 54 College St. in Middlebury. Hayyat sold the business to the Shafer family last year, and had been looking for a new gig in the food service industry.
Perta and Ellison anticipate Hayyat will add some of his Middle Eastern specialties to the menu in the near future.
Like her colleagues, Ellison also has a lengthy experience in customer service roles.
Middlebury-area residents might recall her as the former manager of the McDonald’s Restaurant on Court Street Extension. It’s a job she held for around a decade, prior to becoming manager of the Majestic Car Rental business in Rutland.
After five years with Majestic, Ellison grew weary of the daily commute from Ferrisburgh and she wanted to return to the food service industry. She saw an ad for the Bristol Bakery job.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Ellison has thoroughly enjoyed her time at Bristol Bakery, where faithful customers happily queue up each morning for a quality cup of coffee, a croissant and some conversation, if they’re not on the run. Some folks linger over a latte and a laptop, absorbing the sunshine that pours through the generously windowed south facing façade.
It’s a delightfully retro, no-frills interior, sprinkled with non-descript wooden chairs and tables that could tell a story or two.
“It’s a nice space,” Perta said. “It’s part of the best real estate in town.”
While he’s sold the local bakery, Kevin Harper has played — and will continue to play — a major entrepreneurial role in the Bristol business scene. The sale will allow him to spend more time on other projects, including the Bristol Works business park that has become a successful hub for medical services and for small food production industries. Among them is Bristol Bakery Wholesale, which offers a wide variety of from-scratch baked goods.
“We are steadily growing the (wholesale) company by taking on the manufacturing of emerging regional brands of artisan crackers with our twin facilities, gluten and gluten free,” Kevin Harper said. The company also produces all the challah burger rolls and desserts for the Farmhouse Group in Burlington.
Doug Harper has served as general manager for both bakeries, focusing on purchasing, financial management and other administrative chores. He, too, will now be able to refine his focus to other Harper business interests.
“With the sale behind me, we are able to focus more time and resources on Hinesburg, and Celina only has one location to manage,” Harper said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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