Earlier this month, Hardwick’s Main Street gained a new face: Connie’s Kitchen, a bakery with rich family roots.
The business’ first incarnation flourished for nearly two decades under local baker Connie Kapusta. It began humbly, with a plate of donuts that sold out at a 1991 yard sale. “My mom was always a very good cook. The [baked goods] kept selling, so she kept doing it,” says Terry Coolbeth, Kapusta’s daughter and proprietor of the new café. Kapusta turned out her signature pies, cookies, cakes and scones for three months every summer, baking them in her garage and selling them wholesale.
In 2006, Coolbeth was working for the state of Vermont when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She took a leave of absence to help with the business during her mom’s treatment. When it appeared the cancer might win, Coolbeth quit her job and joined Connie’s permanently, learning her mother’s recipes.
Last summer, Kapusta succumbed to her illness. After some soul-searching, Coolbeth realized she wanted to bring Connie’s Kitchen to the next level. “I was able to tell her before she died that I was doing this. She was so happy,” she says.
The 10-seat, country-themed Connie’s Kitchen opened on January 31. In addition to its tried-and-true range of pies, doughnuts and other baked goods, the café is offering breakfast and lunch sandwiches, homemade soups and Speeder & Earl’s coffee.
Coolbeth is sourcing as many ingredients locally as she can, such as bagels from Patchwork Farm and syrup (for her maple baked beans) from Green Mountain Technology and Career Center’s forestry department.
Now, every morning at 5:30 a.m., Coolbeth starts baking. She hasn’t changed anything about her mom’s recipes, she says: “She taught me so well.”