Right off South Main Street, tucked into a corner of the Visitor’s Center, you’ll find a cozy and enchanting little bakery and café. You virtually forget that the day is cold and gloomy outside the moment you step into the café, with its neat little tables, whimsical French decor, charming soft music, and display case full of mouth-watering baked goods. The only thing more charming and welcoming than the space is its owner, Isabelle Treciak. After putting a tray of warm croissants in the display case, she sat down with me, freshly-brewed coffee in tow, to talk to me about Harrisonburg’s newest downtown eatery – Heritage Bakery and Café.
When did you start thinking about opening a bakery?
IT: Ever since I was little. Me and my mom used to bake a lot. My dad has a French restaurant – I used to always work in the kitchen with him making desserts. He’s from France so we kind of did a little French décor [here]. And my mom used to be the pastry chef. So I grew up with that.
Why a bakery?
IT: I just love sweets! They make life a little sweeter. They’re just fun, they’re beautiful, they can be colorful. They always make people happy, no matter what – they will put a smile on someone’s face. I love that. And I love sugar, so… you know.
Why the name?
IT: So we originally wanted to call it ‘Brioche,’ which is a sweet bread. But, since it’s part of the Visitor’s Center and they have a whole history section back here, ‘Heritage’ goes hand in hand with that.
Tell me about the menu.
IT: We are a bakery and café because we also serve breakfast and lunch, which we change up all the time. Our soup changes up every day or every few days. So right now we have the vegetable lentil. We have our hearty tomato, which doesn’t have any cream in it. And then we have our chili. So those are the three right now that are rotating and we’ll switch it up as we go – we always take suggestions. And then we have a few salads and a variety of sandwiches.
IT: Some of the pastries will stay the same [throughout the week] – a lot of people love the blueberry muffins and cinnamon rolls. Wednesdays are gluten free days. Really it’s just whatever I feel like baking. We get the croissant dough from a French company that actually sends it to my dad’s restaurant. It’s a French connection. So we actually go to Pennsylvania to pick it up. We have almond, plain, and chocolate croissants. And we bake them fresh every morning.
Do you have a favorite menu item?
IT: Butterscotch bunt cakes. I just love butterscotch.
What are some of your visions for the future?
IT: We’re going to try to have a set soup menu so everyone can look forward to that soup. We’re going to do a bike food line. There’s a feed zone cookbook that they sell at bike shops for athletes. It’s little, really nutritious bites. So we’re going to do a line of those when it gets warmer for all the cyclists.
IT: In the summer and in warmer months we’re going to have music on the porch. We’ll have Christmas lights and yellow umbrellas and seat cushions. The Visitor’s Center plants a variety of flowers out here. So we’re going to have a little sheet that you can go out and look at each flower and have a little description of them – maybe even have a little flower scavenger hunt. And we’ll be involved in First Fridays – kid’s crafts and all that.
IT: We have groups that come in. You can call ahead and we can reserve a table. You can feel free to do a book club. We really encourage that. Or if anybody wants to do a mini poetry reading or play music in here, that’s totally welcome. I would love for them to approach us.
This lovely little corner of downtown is the perfect spot to meet up with friends, read a good book on a rainy day, or grab a bite to eat on your lunch break – make sure to check it out!
Heritage Bakery and Café is open from 9am-5pm, Monday-Saturday. Be sure to keep up with them on Facebook for the current, tasty menu items.