Back in the spring, a few weeks before the coronavirus struck, I was invited to consider a part-time baking position at a new, soon-to-be-open bakery. I interviewed, said yes, and then everything went on hold for a few months while they finished renovations on the building, the old, triangular Big L Tire garage.

It’s a pretty cool place. Magpie Diner — the main attraction — is on the first floor, along with the inhouse bakery and a coffee roaster business, and then the second floor (and part of the first) is coworking space. (Remember The Hub? Now it’s The Perch.) Basically, the entire building is a funky one-stop dream spot for writing and other office-y work: fabulous coffee, fresh bread, and lots of quiet space to create.

Last Monday was my first day of work.

The two full-time bakers had already been working round the clock for several months, first in a rented space and then in the actual bakery, so they had a good rhythm going.

The other part-time baker and I have been taking turns shadowing them, learning to program the ovens, laminate pastry, pound butter, monitor the proofing box, grind grain, shape croissants, roll the cinnamon swirl loaves, and so on.

assessment and documentation, always

Next week, we’ll switch roles: the part-time bakers take charge and the full-time bakers shadow us. Right now I’m working three shifts a week, but once things settle down, I’ll cut back to one or two per week — just enough to feed my extrovert soul but not enough (hopefully) to detract from my writing.

One of my favorite things about the bakery is the windows. There are huge glass windows at the front that let me keep tabs on the outside world, and there’s a large window between the bakery and the diner which lets us feel part of the diner hubbub and allows customers see how their bread gets made.

from the bakery window into the diner: servers in training

The bakery specializes in sourdough, several kinds of daily bread (milk, multigrain, seed and nut), croissants, and pies, most of which goes directly to the diner. But until the diner opens, we’ve been selling our test bakes out the front door. (When we briefly opened Tuesday morning, a line of customers stretched down the sidewalk for about forty-five minutes, at which point we sold out!)

Magpie Diner officially opens Tuesday, July 28. Stop by for a coffee and fresh croissant (my children like the vanilla braids; I’m partial to the ham and cheese) and say hi!

This same time, years previous: happenings, the best one yet, the quotidian (7.24.17), all practicality, on his own, curry potato salad, we’re back!, pumpkin seed pesto, how to beat the heat.


  • mommychef

    Exciting! Love the bakery's name and it's a pipe dream of mine to open one but I think working part time at someone else's would be even better as it's not your life savings on the line! Hope you love it!

    • Jennifer Jo

      I wondered if someone would notice that! We wear them the majority of the time but they sometimes come off when we're working solo…

    • Hazel Brown

      I hear ya… but they're saying that tiny aerosol droplets can remain suspended in the air for a few hours, and are created just by breathing. Someone else could walk into an empty space vacated by someone recently, and inhale their particles and get sick.

      It feels crazy that we're even have to worry about it, but there it is.

  • Laurie Longenecker

    Good to know! Fingers crossed, we'll be delivering our oldest to EMU in a few weeks. I'm really looking forward to getting to know Harrisonburg again.

  • farm buddy

    That looks like a fantastic place! I wish we had something like it in my town! I also really, really like the name! I hope the business is very successful and you have many happy hours there.

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