Vergennes Laundry gourmet eatery reborn with a new owner

VERGENNES LAUNDRY OWNER Nadia Dole plans to restore the Main Street food business and bakery to its former glory while also expanding its offerings to include specialty grocery foods and prepared takeout meals.

VERGENNES — A decade ago, Julianne Jones and Didier Murat transformed a former Laundromat at 247 Main St. into Vergennes Laundry, a gourmet food shop and bakery that earned acclaim far beyond the boundaries of the Little City.
They sold their venture in 2018 to another talented chef, who put a different spin on the business. For one reason or another it didn’t work out.
Vergennes Laundry went back on the market.
Now Montreal native and experienced chef and shopowner Nadia Dole believes Vergennes Laundry can be reborn again.
Dole, who had considered buying Vergennes Laundry in 2018, stepped back to the plate in January, when she made an offer for the business name and equipment. Of course, in January COVID-19 was a Wuhan rumor.
Initially, she was told no. But in May, with the pandemic raging, she got a phone call: The offer was accepted.
Dole, 48, who has since settled in Vergennes, decided to proceed, but with a slightly different approach than both former owners.
“I didn’t actually tell many people, because their reactions were, ‘Are you crazy?’” she said. “But I really knew what Vergennes needed. And I thought if there is a time when the community needs a place like that, it’s now.”
When Vergennes Laundry opens fulltime sometime early next year, Dole will offer a range of espresso and coffee drinks, wine, gourmet groceries and pantry items, some of which she will make herself, as well as baked goods and hot meals to go, also of her own creation. Many of the those goodies will be baked using the custom-made wood-fired oven that came with the purchase.
Dole’s logic is that local customers who are unable to travel due to COVID-19 will appreciate the opportunity to stop in and pick up something special.
“To be able to run in and get something nourishing to take home, and groceries — I wasn’t nervous about that,” she said. “I felt confident I could make it work.”
Groceries will include cheeses, jams, olives, her own kimchi, breads, lemons, mustards and pesto. Dole offered as examples of prepared meals “high-end specialty pizzas,” custom-made pitas from the wood-fired oven, “kimchi-elevated grilled cheeses,” and more.
The well-traveled Dole (she studied in England and has a side business that takes her around the world teaching photographers video skills) will rely on extensive experience that includes food shops in Williamstown, Mass., and Providence, R.I.
Typically, she has relied on 12-hour days starting at 7 a.m., and she would eventually like to go that route at Vergennes Laundry, allowing those who work to pick up meals and provisions on the way home. She will almost certainly remain open at least until 5 p.m. five days a week.
Before Vergennes Laundry opens on that basis, Dole plans pop-ups on at least one weekend sometime later this month — residents should keep their ears to the ground and eyes on 247 Main St. The first such pop-up could occur on Saturday, Dec. 19, at least for coffee drinks and retail offerings.
Responses to those weekends will help determine hours, at least to start, and Dole pledged to maintain consistent hours.
“I’m going to use the pop-up to kind of guide me on that,” Dole said. “I do want to make it clear that once those hours are posted it will be those hours.”
Patrons can expect a more open look inside Vergennes Laundry. With an emphasis on takeout, only bench seating to accommodate waiting customer remains along one wall.
“I have cleared out a lot of space, so if you have been in here before it will look drastically more open,” Dole said.
As is the case with so many renovation projects, work took longer than expected. A November opening date proved unrealistic, as Dole said new problems seemed to crop up each time something was opened up.
“It took an extra six weeks more than anticipated just to get where we could paint. It’s like a Pandora’s box,” she said.
As Dole, who is married with a young daughter, talks about Vergennes Laundry her reverence for the original business shines through. She pointed out Vergennes Laundry drew attention from Bon Appetit magazine and The New York Times, and said fans “would drive hours” to sample its fare.
“I used to commute from Boston to Montreal, and this was the only place where you would buy bakery and actually bring it to Montreal, and not the other way around,” she said.
Now she wants to recapture that magic:
“The goal was to bring that back the best that I can.”

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