Around Town

Bars, bakeries, bodegas are focus of next ‘history chat’

WESTFIELD-So many businesses downtown have touched the lives of area residents over the decades, and the Westfield Athenaeum continues to capture those moments in “history chats,” hosted by acting director and archivist Kate Deviny.

“We are looking to record people’s memories of the various establishments and any pictures they may have,” said Deviny.

Deviny’s chat on Oct. 2 is titled “Bars, Bakeries, and Bodegas” and begins at 2 p.m. in the Elizabeth Reed Room.

Area residents have fond memories of Veselak’s Bakery in Westfield. (Submitted photo)

“Come add your stories, memories, pictures, bar tabs and tall tales about our local establishments to our collection,” said Deviny.

Deviny noted that businesses including Veselak’s Bakery, Ouimette’s, City Hotel, the Nook and small variety stores are examples of places that were part of people’s daily lives in the city.

“The Athenaeum would like to know what life was like and any memories of these bodegas, bars, and bakeries,” she said.

Deviny added she can copy photographs, news clippings and diaries if someone does not want to donate them to the archives.

“We are interested in being able to give an accurate and complete history,” said Deviny of the Athenaeum’s archives department.

In a Facebook posting on We Love Westfield Community Forum, we asked area residents for their favorite businesses – especially those from their younger days. While many of the same businesses came up frequently (Pelican’s Bakery for its mouth-watering pastry, Cline’s for its fresh seafood), it was clear that many families had a special stop each week – especially after church on Sunday.

“We had a standing order,” said Jan Porter, responding to a post by Bill Somers who enjoyed Pelican’s Bakery. “My dad would just go in and walk behind the counter and grab the box with danish in them.”

Other Pelican fans included Heidi Jaeger McGrievey, Linda Champagne, Wanda Pulaski, and Kathy Allman, who posted “The rolls melt in your mouth … deliciousness.”

Kate Liptak Marchand concurred.

“The danish melted in my mouth,” she said.

For Ken Stomski, the snowflake rolls were “the best ever.”

“There were actually several bakeries in the Meadow Street area and you could smell them baking all morning long,” posted Stomski. “In fact, because of all of the bakeries and markets along Meadow Street years and years ago, that neighborhood used to be called ‘little downtown’.”

Other bakeries that were praised included the Farmer’s Daughter, Veselak’s and Liberty Bakery.

“Their bread was awesome,” noted Mary Kirley of Veselak’s Bakery on Meadow Street. “On Saturday would order two loaves of rye bread, go pick them up and eat half of one before I got home.”

Dorothy Rash noted she too enjoyed Veselak’s.

“I got cookies every day on my paper route,” said Rash.

For Cathy Deedy Anderson, she enjoyed her employment at Michno’s Bakery on Meadow Street during her high school years and during breaks in college.

“People would form lines out to the street on Sunday mornings after masses at the various churches in town,” she said, noting the bakery was operated by two Polish brothers, Frank and Stanley Michno. “It was amazing to watch them move the breads around using long wooden paddles. Their rye and pumpernickel breads were so delicious. I loved their raised doughnuts and their pineapple pie squares. Good thing we walked from Fowler Street to the high school on Smith Avenue every day – really burned those calories.”

Sally Brzys Hietanen and Rosemarie Bonyeau singled out The Donut Shop as their favorite bakery.

“The Donut Shop had the best pastries and donuts,” said Bonyeau, with Hietanen tagging her post noting, “Cherry almond bread – would pay dearly for that recipe!”

For Jennifer Perreault Pease, the Farmer’s Daughter had the most “epic chocolate chunk cookies.”

Barbara Stevens echoed a similar sentiment about Lou’s Lunch Box on Meadow Street.

“We used to go there every weekend,” posted Stevens. “Not only did they have the best food, they made everyone feel like family.”

While bakeries were the most popular posts, several markets and businesses also have had lasting impacts on area residents – including the five and dime store chain J.J. Newberry’s on Elm Street.

“J.J. Newberry had the best lunch counter,” posted Maryanne Carter, adding, “the ice cream had little ice crystals in it which I love.”

For Gail Durand, she “loved” everything about J. J. Newberry’s.

“Loved their sweaters and made lots of outfits from material I bought there,” posted Durand, adding, “good candy counter and lunch counter too.”

For variety stores, Hector Rodriguez sought out Rod’s Variety.

“Rod’s Variety had baseball cards, wrestling magazines and Swiss rolls,” posted Rodriguez.

For penny candy, several businesses stood out to area residents including Renee Gonnello.

“Doc’s Smoke Shop across from Holy Trinity Church and School was a big hit with the after school kids buying penny candy,” posted Gonnello. 

For Maureen Nomakeo, her go-to business for penny candy was “Rodriguez’s.”

Betsy Hill seemed to sum up the feelings of many on Facebook about local establishments from days gone by.

“Westfield downtown holds so many special memories for my family,” posted Hill. “I wish we could turn downtown into what it was.”

While we can’t turn back time, Deviny is hopeful that area residents will stop in and chat with her and others so she can “keep recording our history” for future generations to study.

For more information on the gathering, call (413) 568-7833 or visit

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