Sweet and savory at Sift Bake Shop in Mystic

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Mystic — Adam Young does things in a big way.

The owner and operator of the new Sift Bake Shop at 5 Water St. in downtown Mystic makes and sells about 4,500 croissants and 3,000 French macaroons each week, in addition to the artisanal breads, breakfast pastries, fancy French desserts, cookies, cakes, confections and sandwiches that he and his staff create fresh seven days a week.

At Sift, employees arrive in the middle of the night to start proofing, sifting, mixing, kneading, rolling, shaping and baking, so that at 7 a.m., when the shop opens, the expansive, gleaming glass showcase is filled with single-serve goodies like crème brûlée with pistachio shortbread, olive oil cake with lemon mousse, key lime white chocolate cheesecake, cappuccino muffins, and individual quiche loaded with ham, bacon lardon, caramelized onions and Gruyere.

There are also dark chocolate brownies, oatmeal blueberry and peanut butter sandwich cookies, and the house-made granola, as well as many other choices.

To produce all that, Sift's seven pastry chefs go through about 1,000 pounds of butter, 1,500 pounds each of flour and sugar, and more than 150 dozen eggs each week. 

When they arrive in the kitchen in the middle of the night, their goal is to make enough to keep the showcase stocked for about 12 hours.

Young, who was executive pastry chef at the Ocean House in Watch Hill until this past New Year's Eve, said the intent is to sell out by about 7 p.m. each day and then close up.

Some days the shop may be open until about 8 p.m., and other days it may close by 6.

"Because everything is made to sell daily, nothing carries over. Everything is made fresh," Young said.

He helped open Ocean House six years ago and left six months ago to open his own business.

Fourteen months ago, he married Ebbie Elmer of Stonington, whom he met at the luxury resort, where she also previously worked.

In March, two days after the Youngs' first anniversary, they welcomed a daughter, Stella.

The Youngs worked with a local real estate agent to find the right location in downtown Mystic to lease, and finally settled on the Water Street property that had been vacated by an optical shop.

"This has always been my goal, my dream," Young said of the bake shop. 

"I knew that this is what I wanted to do, and I put a business plan together and presented it to some investors at first, and it proved a little bit difficult to find an investor who wanted to take on such a risk, as this is a very new idea. It is something that is very new and unique to the community," he said.

After failing to find a private investor, Young said, he went the commercial loan route, and Chelsea Groton Bank, with an office right across the street from his bake shop, financed the business.

"So I'm very thankful that I was able to get through with no partners, no investors," Young said. "I'm sole proprietorship." 

A native of Leicester, Vt., Young is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute.

Prior to Ocean House, he was the head pastry chef at an exclusive club in Vero Beach, Fla., as well as other stints in New Orleans and Washington.  

He's working seven days a week now, 20 hours a day, and plans to continue that through the summer, to make sure the business gets off to a good start.

"If you're going to do it seriously, absolutely, without a doubt, you have to be here," he said.

Asked to describe Sift's merchandise, Young called it an "achievable luxury."

"Someone used this term to describe us, and I've taken it and run with it," he said. "We are an achievable luxury."

"While aesthetically, everything is very polished and very upscale, and we take our product very seriously — in fact, we make a very conscious effort to be unpretentious and very welcoming — the price of items are $3, not $300," he said. "That is absolutely achievable and can be attained on a regular basis."

Most everything in the showcase is sold by the single piece, with cookies and muffins under $3 and entremets (fancy desserts) $4.95.

The small quiche are $9 each and sandwiches run a little higher. 

Young said he likes to see people buy their treats and head outside.

"We want to encourage people to enjoy Mystic," he said. "We want them to enjoy the shops downtown, to enjoy the (Mystic) Seaport and the Mystic River."

"It's not that I don't want people sitting inside my retail shop, it's just that I want them to go out," he said. "It's such a convenient thing to get a latte and a croissant and go out and walk around. There is something luxurious about that to me."

So far, there's just a single small table inside, and on the sidewalk out front, four small tables with two chairs each.

If the business thrives, and he can obtain the necessary approvals, Young said next summer he will consider adding a wrap-around porch and awning.

"But we took the majority of our inspiration from Parisian bake shops and the idea behind that is that there is very limited square footage and a lot of that square footage is dedicated to manufacturing," he said.

Business has been very good so far.

"We are doing incredibly well, and the most humbling part is to see the same faces every day, so it tells me the locals are enjoying it," he said. "It's not just a one-time deal and the novelty is wearing off. I think every entrepreneur's worst fear is that the novelty will wear off and no one is going to show up."

Young did virtually all of the interior work on the bake shop, with the exception of electrical, and invested in quality equipment, such as the European-style, steam-injected oven that bakes bread crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy inside.

He also has a machine that makes 81 hair-thin layers of dough and butter for what he believes are the best croissants around.

While Sift's croissants come in a variety of flavors, Young said, "without a doubt, the best thing I make here is the vegetable croissant."

Most of his business is retail, but he does bake for a few high-end establishments, including Ocean House, but said he prefers to focus now on growing his own business.

Perusing the showcases, customers will see scones, muffins, sticky buns and the one-of-a-kind treats.

"Everything is kind of created on the fly," Young said. "We plan a little bit, like a week out, based on what's in season. Spring time is like rhubarb, sheep's milk and lemon and citrus. So those are some of the things you will see on our menu."

a.baldelli@theday.com

Adam Young, owner of Sift Bake Shop in Mystic, left, and Marisa Sabowski work in the kitchen Thursday preparing breads and pastries. (Peter Huoppi/The Day)
Adam Young, owner of Sift Bake Shop in Mystic, left, and Marisa Sabowski work in the kitchen Thursday preparing breads and pastries. (Peter Huoppi/The Day)

WHAT: Sift Bake Shop

WHO: Adam and Ebbie Young

WHERE: 5 Water St., Mystic

EMPLOYEES: 30 employees, including seven pastry chefs  

HOURS: 7 a.m. to about 7 p.m.

MORE INFO: (860) 245-0541; www.siftbakeshopmystic.com

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