What do you get when you cross blue-collar Manchester with millennial chic?
Doughnuts. With dipping sauce.
Doughnuts not mass produced and lined up in steel racks to be ordered and consumed by the dozens. But doughnuts whose aroma waft onto Elm Street as they’re being fried in the late morning.
Doughnuts pulled apart and dunked — err, dipped — into gourmet sauces such as maple bacon, mocha cinnamon and chai. Doughnuts to be picked apart while one is devouring the prose of a bestselling novel or a historical biography.
“Doughnuts do have a bad rap. But there’s something fun and whimsical about them,” said Liz Cipriano, manager and co-owner of Bookery Manchester. The downtown bookstore opened earlier this month and offers doughnuts (as well as other food and drink) for sale alongside the tomes on its shelves.
Until Bookery opened, one couldn’t find doughnuts in downtown, said Cipriano. That seems implausible, given the rank of Dunkin’ Donuts on the Manchester food chain. But from my reckoning, I think she’s right, if you don’t include the bakery at Market Basket or the display case at the Cumberland Farms at Hanover and Beech.
Cipriano said the idea of doughnuts emerged when the owners consulted with local chef Tom Puskarich about Bookery’s cafe. They were discussing whether they would need a deep fryer.
“The minute we said doughnuts, we just knew we had to do it. There was no turning back,” she said.
So they purchased a Belshaw Adamatic Donut Robot II, a machine most recognized in apple orchards that churns out cider doughnuts in the fall. A Rhode Island company that’s been in the doughnut business for 60 years — Dawn Foods — provides the batter mix (just add water), said Ellen Duffy, the chef of the Bookery. And the soy oil is trans-fat free.
In the kitchen, one can see the birth of a doughnut. The Donut Robot II robot pivots and drops a ring of batter (plain or chocolate) into the 375-degree oil. Bubbles tickle the edges as the dough floats along through a series of locks, developing color and texture.
The doughnut eventually lands on a conveyer belt that slowly lifts it from the oil and dumps it onto a tray.
The doughnuts are sectioned into quarters, designed to be pulled apart and dipped. Bookery sells a dozen for $15 (with dipping sauce). Three doughnuts (craftily called a quarter dozen), run $4.
Yet doughnuts are not the reason that Cipriano and Liz Hitchcock — the wife of Dyn founder/venture capitalist Jeremy Hitchcock — opened Bookery. They are in the retail business, after all, hoping to sell something besides things that end up in one’s stomach.
That’s a frequent complaint about downtown: great place to get a cup of coffee, a dinner and a drink (or five). But where can you buy a birthday gift, a nice polo shirt or an electronic gadget?
If Bookery changes that, it might be even more important than doughnuts.
“If you’re encouraging people to live downtown, you need to offer more than restaurants,” said Scott Aubertin, owner of First Sign and the immediate past chairman of Intown Manchester. He ticks off the kinds of retailers that would improve downtown — a gift shop, a shoe store, apparel.
He thinks Bookery has the staying power, and it could draw more retailers downtown.
“A place like the Bookery would have a harder time downtown if they weren’t so super well funded,” he said, noting the Hitchcock capital behind the project.
Aubertin wants to see more efforts such as the recent Taco Tour, when city officials closed Elm Street at night to encourage pedestrian-friendly shopping.
Bookery plans signings by authors, musical performances and a speaker series along the lines of TED Talks. Cipriano thinks downtown is changing, in part because millennials are growing older and tired of the crowded bar scene.
“I think there’s a desire to connect in general,” she said. “It’s hard to connect in a bar.”