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Sift bakery plans major expansion in Mystic

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Mystic — Adam Young, whose Sift Bake Shop has become a tourist destination since he won Food Network's "Best Baker in America" title last year, is planning to sweeten his surroundings by this spring as he quadruples the size of his building in downtown and adds 160 seats inside and outside.

Young, who is expected to close on the purchase of the Water Street building where Sift is located later this month, said this week that he has completed nearly all the approvals required to move ahead with the project, which should start within two weeks. Only a site plan approval by the Historic District Commission awaits.

The European-style patisserie will remain open, except for two weeks in April, he added.

"Mystic as a whole has become more sustainable, even since we've been here," said Young, who opened up in spring 2016. "We have like-minded business owners now in our community who are making it a sustainable year-round destination. We all feed off one another."

Plans call for an expansion of his Water Street building from 1,300 to 5,000 square feet, he said, along with new food offerings that will include savory bakery items, cheeses and pates. Sift also is applying for a cafe liquor license to be able to serve wines, beers and specialty drinks such as mimosas and sangria.

A large porch will wrap around the current building, which will undergo a significant expansion in the back and a tripling of kitchen space. Upstairs, currently used as excess kitchen space, will be renovated into two side-by-side, two-level apartments.

Target date for completion of the renovations is May 15. Construction will be completed by local contractor K. Blake & Co.

"It will always be a bakery first," Young said. "The business is not changing. It's still the same concept."

The space currently has two tiny areas inside the building where people can sip coffee and eat pastries, as well as another small outside dining area, but there is often a logjam in the colder weather as people mill about with no place to sit. The idea would be to encourage friends to get together at Sift to enjoy a drink and a small bite to eat.

Young said the new plans for the building, approved at a Planning & Zoning Commission meeting early this month, will leave a roomier, more open space to let customers watch the delicate ballet of pastries being created in the efficient, updated, glassed-in kitchens. There will be three kitchens: one for breads and croissants, another for savory and bakery items and a third for chocolate work and finer pastries.

"There's something about baking," Young said. "People have such an interest in it. People want to be engaged with it."

Young added that the new kitchen, peopled by about 50 workers, likely will include 70 employees doing two-and-a-half shifts at the height of the season. He applauded employees for braving the current cramped space, but said the new layout should improve working conditions as well as quality control.

"They're excited to see the space," Sift general manager Shea Armell of Groton said.

Chefs at Sift must have a bachelor's degree that focuses on pastry making or have at least five years of related experience; if not, their resumes are not even considered, Young said. Sift had been doing both commercial and retail baking up until last year, when Young said he decided to focus mainly on the walk-in business at his two shops, including a seasonal store in Watch Hill.

Young admitted that both his retail stores were flooded last summer after his TV show appearances and Best Baker designation, putting a strain on his staff.

"We never intended to do that kind of business," he said. "Everything is made here."

With java-loving locals sometimes shying away from Sift during the busy tourist season when lines are out the door, a new coffee-only checkout area will be added for those who want to grab and go.

"We're making it more functional," Young said. "It's another alternative for the local demographic."

About half of the seating area will be inside at cafe-style tables along the outside of the building, with one booth dead center, he said. Sift will continue to encourage counter help to walk customers through a personalized experience as they amble along the 10-foot display cases to inquire about the wide variety of pastries and breads being offered.

"That's by design," Young said. "We want to be with folks through the entire transaction."

Only now the instant gratification of ordering a tasty morsel will be followed by someone delivering it tableside.

"We want to create a unique experience," Young said. "I think it's going to be a home run."


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