THOMASTON – Laurel Cristopher is business owner, baker, dishwasher, and as it turns out, she’s a good carpenter to boot. Christopher is from Winthrop; she was scouting places where a small specialty bakery would fit in. That’s when she found an old firehouse at 350 Main Street in Thomaston, right next to the Prison Showroom.
“I was originally looking for a house in Rockland,” said Christopher. “I drove by this place and there was a for-sale sign out. I checked and found I could fit it in my budget.”
Christopher said she fell in love with the building.
“It’s always been a dream to have my own bakery,” she said, “I didn’t think it would happen this young. We started renovations in August of 2021 and my dad, Mark and brother Austin helped with the renovations and of course my mom, Victoria. Everybody was supportive of this.
“Laurel’s Dolce Vita Bakery and Café is a classic Italian-American bakery specializing in pasta, pastries, and artisan bread. The dough is made in small batches for that one-of-a-kind taste,” the website said.
They use locally sourced seasonal ingredients and old-fashioned techniques to ensure the highest quality.
Laurel has been baking since she was a small child, growing up in the kitchen with her mom.
“I love to bake,” she said. “I grew up in an Italian household, so there were Italian pastries all the time. Holidays featured a lot of Italian food. I love doing pastries and breads.”
Christopher is enjoying a good level of success. She has sold out every day.
“I think that’s what bakeries like,” she said. “No one likes to have leftover food, but I didn’t expect to be sold out within an hour of opening. I keep doubling my production and it just keeps selling out and selling out.”
At times there are lines of people at the door waiting on her to open.
“I think it’s because people were really excited to have a bakery in the area,” she said. “I think it was something they were looking forward to and something that was needed. I have my regulars now and I know them by name.”
Everything is made from scratch, so it’s fresh every day.
“I start around three a.m. prepping the dough that has been proofing in the fridge overnight,” she said. “It’s like something magical happens when I turn the ovens on in the morning. It’s a great feeling that I love and I’m ready to start baking. I roll out dough for about an hour and then just start popping things in the oven. I have an excellent internal timer so I pretty much know when something is ready to come out. As soon as something comes out another tray goes in.”
Things go from the oven to the cooling rack and then are ready for icings and toppings to be placed in the case and ready for the shop to open by 9 a.m.
Besides fresh handmade pasta at Laurel’s Dolce Vita she also makes focaccia bread, biscuits, yeast rolls, olive bread, European hard bread, baguettes and Anadama bread.
“Anadama bread is actually a New England bread,” said Christopher. “It has molasses and cornmeal with other ingredients. That’s being made every once in a while.”
For pastries she makes cannolis, Napoleons, tiramisu, Danish, turnovers and croissants.
“Croissants are a three-day process,” she explained. “You have to laminate the dough and turn it every day. If you turn it wrong the dough goes flat. It’s a process, it takes a lot of time to learn how to do it.”
What does it take to be a good baker?
“I think it comes from the love of it,” said Christopher. “I love getting up in the morning, I love turning on those ovens and getting the dough going. There’s something to me that’s relaxing and its fun. I think that’s why I love it so much.”
There are gluten-free options at Laurel’s Dolce Vita, as well.
“I do some gluten-free cookies and I try to focus more on the Italian gluten-free because that’s what I like to do,” she said. “Cookies, muffins, scones and some tarts I get into for gluten free, so it is an option for some people and they do ask, but unfortunately, I don’t do gluten free breads. Though I try to do more gluten free options on the weekends then during the week.”
The bake shop is open Tuesday through Sunday. It opens at 9 a.m. and Christopher said it closes at 1 p.m., but she’s usually sold out before that.
Christopher’s mom, Victoria Christopher, helps her daughter in the shop every day.
“She’s living her dream; she’s been able to do that from a young age and I think it’s great,” said Victoria. “I’m not surprised she’s a young entrepreneur. Both my kids have enjoyed doing things on their own. My son has a goalie academy for ice hockey in New York, plus he does commercial real estate. Both my kids are doing what they love and I couldn’t be any happier. I’m very thankful.”