CHATHAM – After 26 years at the Wayside Inn, beginning as chef and ending his tenure as general manager, Shane Coughlin is ready to get back to basics.
After the Wayside was sold earlier this year, Coughlin took some time to regroup and “look for the next chapter” in his life. “I don't do well idle,” he commented. And he really wanted to do something in Chatham. “Chatham has been good to me and my family,” he said.
Meanwhile, Michelle and Rick Crean were getting ready to say goodbye to the Chatham Bakery, which they'd owned since 2006.
“It was the right time for us,” Rick said. “We actually had like a 10-year plan.”
Coughlin began talking with the Creans about acquiring the Crowell Road institution. Last month, the sale went through, with Coughlin buying both the real estate and the businesses.
In the past few weeks, Coughlin has begun removing much of the interior fixtures and analyzing what equipment will be functional for his vision for the eatery, which will be less like a bakery and more like a cafe. He's still developing the concept, and plans to remain closed through the spring.
“I think there's a need in Chatham for late afternoon and evening” dining, he said, “especially for this location. I promise this will be a place that people will want to come to.”
The bakery's food has always been good, he said, but his idea is to build on things they did well, like lunches with his own ideas “baked in,” so to speak.
“I'm looking at it like we're starting fresh,” he said.
Coughlin, 51, has been in food service since he was 15. “It's not something that comes out of your blood easily,” he said. “I really do enjoy the work.”
While there's a lot of work to do in the kitchen — redesign mostly — the building is in good shape, and most of the needed work is cosmetic, he said. Some rather large equipment had to be removed, which will likely open up the customer area a bit. The picnic tables on the front lawn, a popular spot in the summer, will remain.
“I expect year one will be a big adjustment,” Coughlin said. “Like anything, you have to give it time.” He plans to be open year-round and to make the restaurant “part of the community.”
The Creans bought the Chatham Village Cafe at 400 Main St. in 2005 and added the bakery a year later, eventually combining the two businesses at the Crowell Road location. The work was pretty intense, said Rick.
“The baking usually started around three in the morning,” he said, and required close coordination and a careful schedule to get everything ready for opening at 7. Michelle credits their employees with contributing to the success of the bakery, both year round and seasonal workers. And, of course, the customers.
“We had summer folks who would come back all the time,” she said, and they build relationships with many.
Both said they are happy to have Coughlin take over.
“We felt he was local,” said Rick. “He was fair to us in the purchase.” While Michelle has retired, Rick said he's not ready to take that step yet, but whatever he does, it will be “something where I get my weekends.
The name of the eatery, however, will no longer be the Chatham Village Cafe and Bakery, but Coughlin is holding the new name close to his vest. All he'll reveal is that it will be something with deep meaning to his family.
“I've had a name in mind for quite a while,” he said.