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Bakeries’ hours aid Christmas feasts

That homemade touch is what makes holiday meals special. But a frantic holiday schedule doesn't always allow time for it.

Thank heaven for local bakeries that do.

Libby Chatfield, owner of Charleston Bread, isn't usually open on Mondays. Christmas Eve, however, requires a change of plan.

"The baker is just now taking the last of the bread out of the oven," she said yesterday at about 10:30 a.m. "Our first baker arrived at 12:30 a.m."

The ovens have been busy at this Capital Street bakery to make sure customers have what they want for their holiday festivities. Some items were going out the door as quick as they hit the shelves.

Loaves of sourdough and olive bread were gone way before noon.

Chatfield and her army of workers also prepared fruited Christmas stollen, cinnamon roll wreaths, brioche and other pastries especially for the holiday in addition to the variety of yeast breads they typically bake.

"This time of year people have special dinners and a nice loaf of bread goes well," she said. "And cookies. Did I mention cookies? We have trays and trays of cookies."

The store planned a 3 p.m. closing, and anything unsold would be taken to local missions and churches that planned meals for Christmas.

Chatfield said she would again be open on New Year's Eve, also a Monday, with plenty of goodies.

In her own family, she gladly delegated much of the cooking to her husband and his mother. They were planning some traditional Italian favorites - fried bread, oyster stew, fried smelts, among other festive foods.

"And we'll have a stollen and baguettes from our bakery," she said.

At Sarah's Bakery on Bridge Road, baked goods also flew out the door Monday.

It's the first Christmas in retail baking for Sarah Plumley, who opened three months ago.

"I made several items for Christmas morning - sticky buns, éclairs, scones and some quiches," she said. "Mushroom parmesan, sausage cheddar, ham and brie with fresh chives from my own garden."

In addition, Plumley was selling plenty of pies, including bourbon pecan and cherry pie with snowflakes on top. Her own favorite is her apple cranberry crumb.

Plumley was also selling about 75 dozen Parker House rolls baked by Duchess Bakery, which still turns out bread daily in the Bigley Avenue facility for sale in other outlets.

"These are things like your mother would make," she said. "Everybody is focused on getting dinners ready, they don't always have time to do it all.

"But this is what I do," said the self-taught baker. "I'm very confident in my products and I work best under pressure. I don't mind."

At Aunt B's in Hurricane, the baking was also taking place Monday at a fast pace.

Owner Brenda Hill said she wasn't taking walk-ins, but would spend most of the day filling orders for pies, cookies and other specialty desserts.

"I think people don't have the time," she said. "They are career oriented, but we still like to have that homemade item."

Hill has been open on Christmas Eve since 1996, and she hoped to have all orders out the door by 4 p.m. Then, she said, she'd take home come pies, a lemon roll and gingerbread men to her own family table.

She said she was excited for the new year, when Aunt B's would take over another food outlet - the very appropriately named Mayberry's - and begin offering sandwiches, barbecue, ice cream and some home cooked meals.

Spring Hill Bakery, a well-known local favorite, was also busy Monday.

Manager and head cake decorator Dawn Bradshaw said the bakery is always open Christmas Eve. That meant changing their routine, since the store is usually closed on Monday.

"People would be disappointed if we weren't here," said Bradshaw, a 20-year employee there. "So if Christmas Eve falls on a day we aren't open, we open anyway."

The store planned to keep the doors open until 5:30, giving customers time to stop by and pick up holiday goodies.

"We have everything - pies, rolls and our hot dogs, we sell more of those than anything," she said of the long donut-like treat. "People have been picking up to take to their offices, and home for dinners, you name it."

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at or 304-348-4832



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