By Stewart Lytle, Reporter -
ROWLEY – When the town’s grocery store closed in 1993, unable to compete with the Market Basket that opened on Rte. 1, Doug Morris saw an opportunity for a specialty bakery that created fresh-made cakes, cookies, scones and breads.
For three decades, Morris created his delicacies from scratch, pounding out the dough and baking them in two free-standing ovens.
But like too many other businesses, the Pandemic restrictions kept customers away and did in the Old Town Bakery. “There’s a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time,” he said last week.
After struggling for months to stay open, and he decided he would not put more of his savings into saving the bakery.
Old Town Bakery, which stands next to the U.S. Post Office on Rte. 1A in the heart of Rowley’s business and government center, will close on March 31.
“It’s been a great 30 years. I’ve met fun people,” he said.
On the anniversary of the arrival of the Covid-19 virus, he wrote to his loyal customers on Facebook, “I have watched all your children grow up in front of me. I made their birthday cakes, baptism cakes and cakes just to make it all better. Some of those kids I’ve had the pleasure of making their wedding cakes and then their baby shower cakes.”
Since he announced the closure on Facebook, cards and letters and especially social media posts have poured in. As of last week, there were more than 120 posts on his Facebook page, all telling him how much they will miss him and his baked goods.
“Scone Sundays will never be the same! How well do they freeze?” Jamie wrote.
From Debbie, “Thanks for the memories and the fine baked goods you sold. It will always bring a smile to my face when I think of my kids, and now my grandkids, eating elephant ears bigger than their heads.”
“Thank you for being part of our greater community,” Andrea posted. “We will miss all your goodies -- scones, cupcakes, and you did make a beautiful cake for my daughter’s shower. Hope your next journey brings you great joy.”
Abby wrote: “We will miss so many goodies from your bakery, especially the gingerbread houses that have become a holiday tradition. I’ll be eating as much cinnamon bread as I can until the end of the month.”
A mother with her son stopped in last week to buy a couple of loaves from the racks of sourdough, anadama, cheese, pumpernickel and white breads. She called out to him, “We’re in mourning,” as he rolled out more dough in the back room.
A father of three kids, who looked forward to coming to the bakery to see Doug, wrote: “Thank you for your many years of amazing treats, breads, scones, pretzels and a side of sarcasm and wit. The bakery was great, but YOU made it extraordinary.”
Through the decades, Morris has been a staple in Rowley. As local author Connie Hambley wrote to him: “You’ve been a landmark and a fixture in our town.”
Born in Newbury, where he still lives among an acre of formal gardens, he graduated from Triton schools. His father was the local cobbler. His mother owned a Newburyport shoe store.
“Generations have come and gone through these doors?” he wrote. “You’ve seen my family over the years. We watched my two boys grow up and move into the real world. You were there when I needed a shoulder to cry on when I lost my mother, my mother-in-law and my wife all within a few years.”
Besides his customers, the people who will miss the bakery most are local charities. As veteran radio broadcaster Win Damon wrote: “Thanks for all you have done through the years, Doug, and all the causes and charities you have helped support.”
“Rowley will lose more than the best bakery,” Mary wrote to him. “Rowley will lose a generous friend. Many of the town organizations have turned to you to donate or help with fundraisers, and you have never refused. The Council on Aging, the Grange, the school, etc. have all benefited from your generosity.”
Thanks to his charitable spirit and several generous customers, Old Town Bakery continued its support for the Rowley Food Pantry even when the Pandemic cut his sales to the bone. Every Friday, he bakes 40 to 60 loaves for the pantry.
“Hundreds of loaves found their way onto the tables of those in need,” Mary continued in her post. “When the COA did Christmas dinners, you sent all the desserts and breads that weren’t sold before you closed to supplement the Christmas meal for seniors. You will be so missed. Wishing you joy and happiness in future ventures.”
He said he does not know what the next adventure in his life will be. “I’m job hunting,” he said. “Baking is all I have ever done.”
Calling his next adventure Chapter Two, he wrote: “We have all read a book and wondered as we read how will it end? I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for being part of my life, and I look forward to writing the ending to my book.”
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