Home Commentary DOT'S DOWNTOWN BEAT: Montpelier Sweets

DOT'S DOWNTOWN BEAT: Montpelier Sweets


by Dot Helling

An addition was added to Farr's Stand before becoming Dairy Creme.
An addition was added to Farr’s Stand before becoming Dairy Creme.

Sweet tooths have always been easily satisfied in Montpelier. Creemees, pastries, chocolate and candy have always been within walking distance. In the 1970s and 1980s Norma’s Donut Shop had a single creemee window open onto State Street during the summer months. If we ran out of jurors during voir dire at the Washington Superior Courthouse, the judge would send the court officer to the creemee line on the sidewalk to recruit more. It was not a great way to end your lunchtime, licking a yummy creemee and then getting dragged in to serve as a juror. The Dairy Queen that used to be on River Street is now the Dairy Creme located two miles west on Route 2. The small original section of the Dairy Creme building was moved from across the street, where it had operated as Farr’s Stand, an A & W Root Beer. The addition was added by Lee Hersey before he sold the Dairy Creme to current owner Cliff Dodge.

Downtown these days we enjoy gelatos at Chill. You can get a creemee at Simply Subs on River Street where the Dairy Queen was located. Village Pizza had creemees but is now closed. Their creemees were especially tempting when Village Pizza was located across the street from my work and home. El Portico served frozen Morse Farm maple creemees and homemade gelato when they were in the Dairy Queen location. The maple creemees at Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks and Bragg Farm in East Montpelier are a tourist draw and a favorite of Vermonters too.

Remember the warm maple glazed donuts and donut holes from the oven at Paul’s Bake Shop in the 1970s, located where Bagito’s is now? They also made bright colored sugar eggs at Easter that made your teeth ache. At Christmastime, the Capitol Theatre (when it still had a balcony and thick red velvet curtains) offered four hours of G-rated shorts and cartoons with a bag full of penny candy. This was all for only 50 cents a kid to keep them occupied while their parents went holiday shopping.

Paul and Elaine Manghi came to School Street in the 1980s. They were joined by Betsy Gladding and Caroline Garside baking amazing chocolate chip cookies and almond croissants, respectively. I lived in an apartment above Manghi’s Bakery then and reaped many benefits. Betsy is now an owner of the Post Office Cafe in Worcester and is still creating irresistible sweets. Manghi’s remains most famous for its breads, but they also bake a mouth-watering sweet almond twist and hot cross buns at Easter. Other downtown bread and pastry sources include La Brioche and Birchgrove Baking. The Birchgrove location was Gesine’s (actress Sandra Bullock’s sister) and before that it was Cano’s Market, a neighborhood grocery with a creemee machine. Before Cano’s it was Joe’s Market, a popsicle haven on hot days.

In the candy and chocolate department we have retailers Delish, The Cocoa Bean and Pinky’s, along with a myriad of Central Vermont chocolatiers and confectioners such as Liberty Chocolates. There used to be a German deli on East State Street where Montpelier Eye Care is now. The owner catered to German palates with a variety of black licorice. Delish has the licorice market now. I only buy $1 to $2 worth at a time, as I am known to eat my black licorice salt coins purchase in one sitting, sometimes before I reach my home two blocks away. Much like chocolate, licorice can be a dangerous obsession. Good licorice was also sold at The Country Store, which was owned and run by the Shouldice family and located where Splash Naturals is now. They were a destination for tourists and locals and carried all sorts of sweet treats plus an amalgam of other stuff ranging from fresh fish and live lobster to clothing and souvenirs.

Today downtown in-house pastries can be found at La Brioche, Capital Grounds, North Branch Tea and Wine, Tulsi Tea House and Birchgrove. I’m a bread lover, not a pastry lover. I miss Burlington Bagel, which was conveniently located in City Center. Nowadays you get a good bagel at Bagitos or Capital Grounds. I also miss the Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop, which was located where Skinny Pancake is now. Their seconds on Heath Bar Crunch usually meant the pint contained too many chunks. To me that was a first, not a second. There can never be too many Heath Bar chunks! For $1.50 or $2.00 a pint, or whatever they charged, their seconds were a freezer treasure chest.

Maynard’s Snack Bar, west of Moretown on Route 100B, isn’t downtown, but Wilma, nee Austin, graduated from Montpelier High School. Wilma and husband Jerry are the sole owners and proprietors. They open Thursdays through Sundays during the summer and offer maple creemees, shakes, sundaes and floats. They also serve a mean hamburger, rated one of the top three burgers in Vermont by                                  Thrillest.com. But don’t ask Wilma where they get their burger meat. It’s a secret ingredient and she’s not telling. The Maynard’s whip up Black Cows (coke and chocolate ice cream) for regular, special customers such as Montpelier’s Dr. Butsch. As a kid Wilma sucked down Black Cows at Donnelly’s Drug Store soda fountain and at the Campus Restaurant, both on State Street. Also back then, the Montpelier Diner was a railroad car in the parking lot between Julio’s and Christ Church. The Diner served “Graveyards,” a mixture of all their sodas, topped with whipped or ice cream upon request.

In the old days Tomasi’s Soda Fountain was housed in the M & M Beverage building and served specials off their menu, such as Joanne Marcelle’s favorite vanilla soda. Next to Bethany Church on what is now the City Center lot, Cross Bakery and Sullivan’s Confectioners are said to have had the best donuts in town along with penny candy, chocolates and pastries. You could buy “grab bags” of broken candy bits for five cents and watch the bread conveyor go round. Two downtown dime stores also provided sweets. McClellan’s, located in the Rite Aid location, had a bulk candy counter. Fishman’s Woolworth’s, where Aubuchon’s is now, had a soda fountain. No ice cream truck traveled the streets in those days, but Mr. Pease delivered Zero Bars, and plenty of small neighborhood stores sold candy, popsicles and fudgesicles.

Memories can be sweet but short-lived, so don’t hold me to some of these historic remembrances shared by local folks. If you’re worried about working off those “sweet calories,” tune in next time for the beat on downtown recreational groups that keep Montpelierites on the move and healthy.