Princeton’s carbohydrate-indulging population welcomed Eclair Café when it opened on Witherspoon Street in July 2019.
Not a year later, the French-inspired bakery-bistro was gone, a casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic. Owner-operator couple Marie-Mathilde Laplanche and Ron Suzuki shuttered both their Princeton and Main Street Pennington locations after the pandemic began, never to reopen.
Both locations are once again occupied: the Pennington store is now The Pig and the Pit barbecue, and since February the Witherspoon Street location has been the home of Bread Boutique, the latest venture from the steadily growing Genesis Hospitality Group suite of restaurants, bakeries and cafés.
Hamilton-based Genesis is the force behind Bread Boutique, Chez Alice in Palmer Square, the Perch at Peacock Inn, Proof Pizza on Nassau Street, DiBartolo Bakery in Collingswood, and more. Genesis is also the owner of the building at 41 Witherspoon Street vacated by Eclair Café.
But Eben Copple, culinary director of Genesis, says that after Eclair Café closed, the group decided to make use of the storefront rather than lease it out again. Genesis operates a central commissary in Hamilton where baked goods are made every day for all their restaurants, under the watchful eye of lead baker Ernesto Gonzalez, formerly of Eataly in New York.
“Ernesto is very talented. He makes great bread. We knew we could handle more production than we could produce for the restaurants. Eclair Café left due to Covid, so we found the space empty, and thought it would be the right size for us to put together a retail front,” Copple says.
Bread Boutique sells a variety of bread loaves and rolls, including regular baguettes, seeded baguettes, sourdough bread, focaccia, multigrain and more. “Every day, we probably have 12 to 15 varieties of whole loaves of bread and eight varieties of rolls,” Copple says. “It changes as the week goes on, but there’s a pretty steady core of products that we have regularly.”
The café rotates in other breads like zucchini bread, challah and babka, seasonally or on weekends. Also regularly on offer are their viennoisseries like croissants, pain au chocolat, and cheese danish, which Copple says have been very popular.
Bread Boutique also does a brisk sandwich business. The shop has 10 to 12 different sandwiches available for purchase every day, including breakfast sandwiches like pork roll, egg and cheese on a croissant ($7). Other sandwiches on offer include roast beef and cheddar on baguette ($9), cured meats and mozzarella on focaccia ($10), pastrami on rye ($10) and egg salad on brioche ($7). Soups, egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad are also available by the half pint and pint.
Witherspoon Street has become quite the destination for carb loaders in the past decade. Terra Momo Bread Company (formerly Witherspoon Bread Company), House of Cupcakes and Olive’s of Princeton already offered a wide variety of baked goods and have loyal followings.
But Copple says business has been steady, especially on weekends, and he says more than 40% of customers return. “It’s humbling to see,” he says. “We had an idea for something that we liked and it’s really great to see people enjoying what we’re putting out there.”
Copple says this may be just the start of something as far as both Bread Boutique and Genesis’ baking operations go. “I was a chef for many years in the area, and there aren’t really any local bread wholesalers selling high quality artisan bread any more,” he says. “That’s something that we’re really looking into, because we have the capacity to do it.”
Bread Boutique, 41 Witherspoon St., Princeton NJ 08540. Web: bread-boutique.com. Phone: (609) 423-2096. Open Saturday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.