Historic train station transformed into bagel bakery in Easthampton
Construction for a new Bakery, Tandem Bagel Company, inside the old rail depot along the Manhan Bike Trail in Easthampton Tuesday. Purchase photo reprints »
(L to R) Chris Zawacki, Andrea Zawacki, Shannon Greenwood and Brian Greenwood are opening a new Bakery, Tandem Bagel Company, inside the old rail depot along the Manhan Bike Trail in Easthampton. Purchase photo reprints »
Construction for a new bakery, Tandem Bagel Company, in the old railroad depot along the Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton is under way..
JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »
EASTHAMPTON — Nearly a century and a half ago, the red brick train station on Railroad Street was busy with workers and travelers, waiting on the platform for the next train to take them to New Haven or deliver visitors to the factory town. It was 1859, railroads were booming, and Easthampton was too.
Today, the former station is undergoing a transformation. And instead of the scent of coal smoke, the historic building will be filled with the aroma of baking bagels when the Tandem Bagel Company opens there in January.
“We think the depot is a great spot. It has a historic feel, it has character,” said Shannon Greenwood, one of the owners of the new business. “We picture a breakfast and lunch spot that will cater both to commuters who want a quick bite and folks with time to sit.”
The train station building, owned by The Williston Northampton School, has been used as an art studio for the last 43 years. Now, two Easthampton couples have signed a lease for the space, embarking on a project that will realize their long-held dream to open a bagel bakery.
They are Brian and Shannon Greenwood, both 47, and Chris and Andrea Zawacki, both 43. Currently, the Greenwoods own a building company, Greenwood Builders, Andrea Zawacki is a fitness instructor and Chris Zawacki is a mechanical engineer who works in the manufacturing field.
Everyone is planning to spend time in the kitchen when it opens, Brian Greenwood said. He, his wife, and Chris Zawacki are planning to leave their current jobs to work full-time at the bakery, he said, and Andrea Zawacki will likely work nearly full-time there and continue teaching fitness classes on the side.
For about a decade, the friends have been keeping an eye out for the perfect location for the bakery and cafe they envisioned. So in early 2012, when they heard the 2,700-square-foot building at 1 Railroad St. would become available to rent in July, they jumped at the chance.
The group has significant ties to Williston; Shannon Greenwood and Chris Zawacki are alumni, and all six of the business partners’ children attend the school. The Greenwoods’ children are Devon, 17, Aidan, 15, and Tyler, and the Zawackis’ children are Cameron, 17, Cade, 15, and Molly, 13.
They declined to specify the total cost of the project. The school took out a building permit for $100,000 of renovations on the building, but that doesn’t include the cost of kitchen equipment and furnishings.
Brian Greenwood, a self-employed builder, said that history buffs and railroad enthusiasts have been poking their heads in the door since he unlocked it to begin the renovations on Aug. 23. “The public really hasn’t seen the inside of the building for over 50 years,” he said.
Most are curious about remnants of the railroad station’s past that have surfaced during the renovation. “We found a list of ticket prices from the 1920s, a train schedule and a ‘clergy ride for free’ sign in the attic,” Greenwood said. “A lot of people were looking for old coins or tokens, but it looks like everything else has been cleaned out.”
A station’s rebirth
According to information provided by Richard Teller, the archivist at The Williston Northampton School, the Hampden & Hampshire Railroad Co. began building the station in 1854 and finished it in 1859. It was rebuilt in 1871, but the records don’t say why. Brian Greenwood guessed there may have been a fire.
He said the depot was used by the railroad until shortly after World War II. Williston Academy, as the school was formerly known, acquired it in the 1950s.
Teller said the school used it as a maintenance building until 1969, when Williston turned it into art studios, installing a fine-printing press and later, a ceramics studio with a kiln. The Williston Northampton School also purchased a caboose and parked it next to the former depot for use as an art gallery.
Art classes were eventually moved to the Reed Campus Center, which was built in 1996. After that Williston art teacher Marcia Reed used the depot as a studio, gallery and living space until she moved to Maryland this year.
Shannon Greenwood said the building is much bigger on the inside than most people would imagine looking at the exterior. The single main room has dramatic high ceilings, exposed brick walls and a massive brick fireplace that Brian Greenwood plans to unblock.
“It’s an incredible building,” Shannon Greenwood said. “It will be large and light-filled with a welcoming atmosphere.”
The Zawackis were inspired to give a bagel bakery a try 10 years ago after falling in love with a bagel shop near their former home in Vancouver, Wash., called Sunrise Bagels.
“There are not a lot of places to get homemade bagels here, and we feel like there’s a good market for it,” Chris Zawacki said.
After moving back to Easthampton, they discussed the bakery idea with the Greenwoods, and it evolved from a fantasy to replicate the Sunrise Bagels business model to a real plan. They were just waiting for the right space to come along.
Traci Wolfe, the school’s director of communications, said campus officials are pleased about the plans for the historic building.
“This is a great addition to the city,” Wolfe said. “It’s going to be a nice corridor in the downtown.”
Students and staff can’t wait for it to open, she said. Shannon Greenwood said her children’s friends say the same thing.
The bagelry and cafe will have 65 seats inside and 35 seats on a patio area next to a small trailside park maintained by The Williston Northampton School.
The menu will include breakfast and lunch sandwiches and paninis on fresh-baked bagels and bread, as well as soups and salads.
Brian Greenwood said Manhan Rail Trail users are enthusiastic about the “pedal-up window” he is creating on the side of the trail. It is the first of its kind on the path.
“If you’re biking by or walking, you don’t have to tie up the dog or wake your kids up from the pram,” Brian Greenwood said, peering out the unfinished window. “You can just wheel up and order.”
Until now, the Greenwood’s and Zawacki’s baking experience has been limited to what they’ve picked up in their own kitchens.
But Zawacki said they are getting help from the owner of Sunrise Bagels in Vancouver. They expect to fly there soon for on-site training.
“I’ve worked with them to understand the process, and it’s really an art,” Chris Zawacki said.
Zawacki said it is interesting to watch the space where he and Shannon Greenwood took pottery classes as teenagers transform into his dream business. “There’s definitely a connection there,” he said.
Shannon Greenwood said people who have dropped by during the renovations at the former depot have been enthusiastic.
“People keep saying they can’t wait to get fresh bagels and to have a place to pedal to,” she said. “It’s nice to hear, when you’re putting in so much work.”
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.