Sitting in their comfortable cafe, once the site of a dress shop in the middle of Fields Corner, Elisa and Vivian Girard and Jack Wu are surrounded by customers bustling about. Civic group members chat over coffee and sandwiches, a representative from City Councillor Andrea Campbell’s office perches on a stool near the front door, and neighbors gather around a central wooden table.
It is midday at the home.stead bakery and cafe. The Girards and Wu seem to be succeeding in their mission to create a hang-out and coffee shop that is “an extension of everybody’s living room,” as Wu described it in January.
Home.stead offers an intricate menu of staple breakfast foods, specialty sandwiches, and homemade baked goods to munch on over a cappuccino. The variety of edibles and the overall aesthetic – exposed brick, mismatched chairs, delicate chandeliers, quirky dishware – are Elisa’s brainchild.
After just a month in business, “Many people are telling us they’re already addicted to the baked goods,” Elisa says with a laugh. The hazelnut brownies and biscuits are going like hot cakes, so to speak, she said.
Even before home.stead swung wide its glass door – emblazoned with a Dorchester pear logo – passersby were peering through the paper- covered windows of 1448 Dorchester Ave., catching glimpses of gray slab floors and cream walls.
“I was waiting for it to open,” says Melanie Lerman, a Fields Corner resident and UMass Boston graduate student. “I walk by every day,” she said, adding that she is thrilled with the bakery as a study space.
“I work best in coffee shops, and being in Fields Corner, there’s nothing around,” says Lerman, who is settled in by one of the large windows where she is drenched in afternoon light, happy to have access to “plugs, wifi, good food, and good coffee.”
The three owners were hoping the bakery and cafe would become a hub for the village, which many say was badly in need of a character-filled, low-key gathering place.
The Girards have lived in Fields Corner for years. A native of southwest France, Vivian, a contractor, bought a
six-family building in the village in 2001 and Elisa moved in when they got married.
Without any formal cooking training (her degree is in studio art), Elisa wowed Ashmont resident Wu with her homemade bread and cassoulet when he came by the Girards’ home. The three of them had met while volunteering for VietAID.
Opening the cafe was an easy mesh for the three of them. Wu had a marketing and business background with nonprofit and government organizations, most recently College Bound Dorchester near St. Mark’s Church. Vivian helmed the construction portion of the cafe, which largely re ects Elisa’s design sensibilities while featuring her culinary creations.
The community threw itself behind the project, says Wu. Some 40 people attended the first fundraising kickoff party, and 70 showed up at the second “to gure out how this concept was going to take shape and what the community really wanted.” He and the Girards also raised $31,710 through an Indiegogo campaign.
Home.stead has been embraced by its neighbors; the Fields Corner Civic As- sociation hosted its monthly meeting in the café this month. Business has been steady and every seat is lled on the weekends, Elisa says. “It’s the best you could hope for for a cafe start-up,” adds Wu.
“It’s great how it’s a real mix of people,” says Elisa. “All ages, all ethnicities, really feeling comfortable here. I was hopeful that it has would happen, but it really has happened.”
Her days start at 5:30 a.m., baking and setting up the displays. Six or seven part-time employees keep the kitchen and cafe running throughout the day.
Chief among the founders’ priorities in establishing a local haunt was delicious yet affordable food and drinks. Their direct-trade coffees, specialty teas, and hot chocolates cost customers between $2 and $4.50, with the most ornate sandwich topping out at $7.50.
The café, with its full liquor license, is planning to offer live entertainment including music, comedy, plays,
poetry, and art exhibitions. The Girards and Wu estimate that they will receive their entertainment license in the next few months. The team is also looking to explore catering.
A grand opening is set for Fri., May 6, at 9 a.m. when Mayor Martin Walsh and other elected officials will welcome the home.stead café to the city.