Congratulations to the Barre Historical Society and baker Jim Haas for their work in bringing back to life the Union Cooperative Bakery, now called Rise Up Bakery.
Each year the Vermont Historical Society presents the League of Local Historical Societies & Museums Achievement Awards. These awards recognize the exceptional work being done by individuals and community heritage organizations throughout the state to collect, preserve, and share Vermont’s rich history.
The little old brick bakery building built in 1913 behind the Socialist Labor Party Hall at 48 Granite Street in Barre was just given an award! The building was an important wood fired bakery for Barre and local communities from 1913 to early 1940s. Old timers still remember the rich smells of bread coming from the bakery!
The story of the bakery is one of Italian immigrants coming to Barre to work in the granite industry, but they missed their Italian food and especially their Italian bread. So in 1913 they built the bakery with a large wood fired oven that would once again provide them with good hard-crusted Italian bread.
Batista Fumagalli began the bakery. He operated it as a small, old-world style bakery catering primarily to the Italian immigrant community within the immediate area. It remained unique in that it was Barre’s first true Italian bakery.
During the Great Depression he set up a work-sharing schedule for his employees that included two weeks of work and one week off. This allowed more people to work during harsh economic times.
Unfortunately Granite Street was subject to major flooding in 1925 and again in 1927. The flood in November of 1927 was especially disastrous. Fumagalli decided to close the bakery and move to another location.
The bakery stood vacant until 1936, when it was again occupied and used for baking old-world Italian bread. Gioseppi (Joseph) Piccolini ran the bakery, delivering his goods primarily to private residences but also to area grocery stores. Bread made in the bakery was simple, and included Vienna bread, French bread, butter rolls, and round loaves.
This was not a good time to start a business, and Gioseppi Piccolini’s bakery finally closed in the early 1940s. The building has been used primarily for storage since 1940.
Then in September 2004, the building was acquired by the Barre Historical Society at the dispersal auction of Dernavich’s Desilets Granite Company and was saved from demolition. It was reunited with the Old Labor Hall property and nominated and accepted to be on the National Register of Historical Places.
In 2015 a successful Kickstarter fundraiser involved the community in the prospect of renovating the bakery building and providing necessary funds for the work. Together with the help of project coordinator Carolyn Shapiro, Andy Shapiro, numerous volunteers, and generous funds from state and private foundations, the little old brick building is now a sturdy, vibrant bakery with Jim Haas and his wife, Larissa, baking a variety of whole-grain sourdough European style breads.
It is significant that Jim and Larissa are resettling in Barre from their home in the Ukraine. Jim grew up in Vermont, but this is Larissa’s first time living here. They continue the fine tradition of bringing another culture and bread to Barre, Vermont. Piccolini and Fumagalli, original bakers, look over Jim’s shoulder as he continues the tradition of making fine wood-fired breads. Jim also revived the tradition of making the rolls Fumagalli made for Barre’s Mutuo Society dinners. They are now called Fumagalli rolls!
The Vermont Historical Society is very wise in recognizing that a project such as this is not just one person or one organization making it happen, but a community of people from teens at YouthBuild, artisan bakers within our extended community, local funding sources, and volunteers. As the Vermont Historical Society says, they felt that the project serves as an example of how historical societies, community, and business can work together to create a positive impact.
The enthusiasm and dedication to the project is now rewarded by the delicious bread Jim Haas bakes. It is possible to purchase these breads at the bakery window on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 12:30 to 6:00 p.m. Look on their website, riseupbakeryvt.com, for more information. You can call the bakery and pre-order bread to be sure it hasn’t sold out before you get there to pick it up!
For groups of 10 orders or more, you can pre-order online for delivery to your local workplace or other distribution points.
Jim is not only a master baker but a great teacher offering classes on bread-making with each class focusing on a particular type of artisan bread. Check the website to sign up for a class!