CUTLER, Maine — From cook in the Navy to pastry chef at a Down East restaurant to preparing meals for inmates at the Washington County Jail, Jeremy Towne has decades of experience in the kitchen.
So when he and his wife, Janie, went to a craft fair awhile ago to sell the decorative pins she creates, they were intrigued when they noticed that the busiest tables were the ones selling food.
“You make the best doughnuts,” Janie Towne told her husband. “Why don’t you do that?”
Jeremy Towne, who had been the pastry chef at the former White House Restaurant in Jonesboro, decided to pursue the idea, at least part time.
“People ask me why I started a new business during a recession,” Towne said this weekend. “But it’s because of the economy that we needed to find a way to diversify and make some extra money.”
Towne’s passion for baking quickly caught on with his customers, and a few weeks ago he opened The Towne Fryer Bakery and Sweet Shoppe in what was once his living room.
Upon entering the bakery, the aroma of freshly baked bread takes over. Towne hands out his handmade doughnuts in a coffee filter, a perfect holder for the sweet treats. There are chocolate cream pies, cheesecakes, yeast rolls, giant cinnamon rolls, muffins and his trademark doughnuts.
The parlor wasn’t always his shop, however.
Towne began his business in a trailer that he purchased already outfitted with frying equipment. He started making doughnuts in May 2008.
He uses his grandmother’s recipe and creates traditional flavors such as honey glazed and chocolate sugar as well as more adventurous kinds such as peanut butter cup, brown sugar coffee cake and pumpkin spice.
“We planned on going to fairs on the weekends, but when the trailer was right here in the driveway, we had more and more customers,” Towne said. “We were open Wednesday through Saturday, starting at 6 a.m. At that hour, the fishermen, the clammers, the workers headed to Down East Community Hospital, guys headed to the naval base, they all began stopping.”
“Besides,” he said, “it started to get cold out there.”
Towne said the couple began the exciting journey of turning their living room into a bakery.
Furniture went upstairs, sinks were installed, appliances purchased and coffeepots filled. Walls were painted a crisp white, and light-blue checked flooring was installed.
Although Towne still does all the doughnut frying in the trailer, which still sits in the driveway, the rest of his cooking is done where the couch used to sit, and he has a refrigerator full of pies where the television once was.
“I am so fulfilled,” he said this weekend as customers streamed through the door.
“Baking is so neat. I can take all these different ingredients, which by themselves are so yuck, and make something wonderful,” he said. “Besides, who doesn’t like a doughnut?”
Monday through Friday he cooks at the county jail.
“I finish the prep work for lunch and prepare the evening meal,” he said. Frustrated by the strict constraints of the bland food he must make, Towne said baking allows his creative spirit to soar.
The bakery has been well-received locally, he said.
“We have several regulars who call in their orders each Friday night,” he said.
“He just likes to make people happy,” Janie Towne said of her husband. “He likes to see the children smile.”
The Towne Fryer is open 6-9 a.m. Wednesday-Friday, and 6-10 a.m. Saturdays. Orders can be made by calling 259-7131.