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Poppy & Rye in Taftville to become new pasta shop, bakery, Italian market

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Norwich — When brothers Bob and Tom Adams opened Poppy & Rye bakery in Taftville in 2014, they hoped to run it for a couple years to recoup their renovation costs, find a new bakery operator and retire.

“I’m 4½ years too late,” Bob Adams said. “It was supposed to be a two-year run.”

Now, partners Justin Burrows, owner of La Stella Pizzeria in downtown Norwich, and that restaurant’s “very frequent” customer, pastry chef Kathy Auerbach, plan to open a new market in the Poppy & Rye building at 137 Norwich Ave.

La Stella Pasta & Bakery Italian Market will feature products befitting its name. The operators will make and sell fresh pasta from scratch, likely in view of patrons. The bakery will offer fresh baked Italian pastries and cookies, while retaining Poppy & Rye’s signature Russian rye, favorite danishes and bagels. The Italian market will sell dry pasta imported from the Abruzzo region of Italy, jars of La Stella’s own pasta sauce, extra virgin olive oil, olives, fresh Italian meats, such as prosciutto and salami, cheeses and specialty sandwiches.

Burrows estimated it will open in mid- to late January.

The new partners are spending time this month with Bob Adams to learn how to make Russian rye bread. Bob Adams said it’s a difficult process to get it right, and few bakeries make it from scratch. People come to the Taftville bakery from throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island to buy it.

“I’m very appreciative of all the customers who come from far away to get the bread," he said.

“I’m so excited about baking the Russian rye,” said Auerbach, who earned her degree in pastry art at Johnson & Wales University in Providence.

Several of Poppy & Rye’s danishes and bagels also are popular, and Auerbach will add them to her own array of pastries, pizzelles (Italian anise cookies), macaroons, other cookies and cheesecake. “Pastries are my love,” she said.

La Stella’s restaurant on Market Street in downtown Norwich will remain as is, Burrows said. Some of the restaurant’s veteran staff and some former employees may transition to the Taftville shop, and Poppy & Rye’s current staff will be considered for the new shop if they are interested, he said.

Several circumstances brought this new venture to fruition, and all parties said they are excited for the planned future culinary option for longtime and new patrons.

In April, Auerbach, who lives in Preston, quit her job as a nurse at the Navy health clinic in Groton. She hoped to pursue her love of baking. Without knowing that, Burrows asked her two days later if she would be interested in his new plan to expand La Stella’s with a bakery and pasta shop.

“It was meant to be,” Auerbach said.

The Adamses also run own an auction company, and Burrows contacted Bob’s daughter, Sarah Adams, about buying pasta-making machines. When Burrows told her his original idea to expand next door to La Stella’s fell through, Sarah said, “you should talk to my dad.”

Burrows did, and since Poppy & Rye is a much larger space, he and Auerbach added the Italian market to the plan. Some limited sit-down eating space will remain, but the new shop mostly will sell items to take home and takeout specialty breakfast and lunch sandwiches and soups.

The Adamses will retain ownership of the building and property. Burrows and Auerbach have purchased the assets of the Taftville bakery and will lease the space, Bob Adams said.

Burrows had been discussing his original plan with the Norwich Community Development Corp. for possible economic development incentive programs, and this week met with NCDC President Kevin Brown to discuss the plan.

Burrows, who grew up in Norwich and now lives in Griswold, said La Stella always has been a community-based business downtown, and the Taftville shop will be the same. He plans to donate a portion of the fresh pasta to St. Vincent de Paul Place soup kitchen and said the shop looks forward to being part of the Taftville community.

“Our mission and our vision is community based,” Burrows said, “while providing excellent food.”


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