KENNEBUNK, Maine — Amy and Zachary Tyson have lived in tighter spaces. Much tighter. The couple met while working aboard private yachts — she was the chef and he the first mate — and shared a 14-foot cabin during their courtship at sea.
Since coming ashore in downtown Kennebunk to open a French-style bread shop in a barn, the 30-somethings sleep in a luxurious 200-square-foot chamber steps from their kitchen. Rising early to bake dozens of artisan loaves in the soon-to-open Boulangerie, A Proper Bakery, the modern, rustic quarters are down right deluxe.
“This is my yacht,” Zachary Tyson said on a recent tour of the reclaimed, hand-crafted space in an 1901 barn where they live and work. They hired a team of locals to give the empty space a warm glow.
“They didn’t just get a canvas and start painting; they made the canvas,” Zachary Tyson said. “You can see the craftsmanship everywhere.”
Opening Friday, May 15, Boulangerie is more than a bake house selling racks of miche, boules and baguettes. It reflects the spirit, determination and expertise of the carpenters who built the post-and-beam barn more than a century ago.
For its latest incarnation, the apron-clad couple hired modern counterparts to customize the space where they turn yeast, local wheat and flour into crusty loaves to feed Maine’s hungry locavore culture.
“Bread is a craft and carpentry is a craft,” said Amy Tyson, who knew the barn was the ideal space to open a village bakery when she saw it five years ago. “They have both been around for thousands of years.”
This chocolate barn, with a steep roof and high walls one block behind Main Street, looks like it has been here for about that long. Tom Joyal, the salvage dealer who moved the barn here from Saco 20 years ago and attached it to an old-fashioned pharmacy he built, laughs when he hears that. And he hears it a lot.
“This is the ultimate recycle,” said Joyal, who originally bought the barn, sitting idle without doors, for $1,000 to house his architectural salvage business, The Old House Parts Company. He lived upstairs. Years later, he sold the first-floor mixed-use space to the Tysons and moved his business to a freight warehouse less than 1 mile away.
To Joyal, who dismantles and moves old barns and houses, repurposing barns is not a trend; it’s here to stay.
“I don’t think it’s a fad. It’s a way of life,” he said.
When he came across this barn he saw “the soul it has, its wear and history.”
The Tysons respect Joyal’s reverence for material and hired him as their general contractor.
His knack for finding vintage material to coax out the wholeness of an old structure brings this wholesome dream to life.
The bread counter alone is made from eight different structures, all culled from local buildings built from the 1790s and 1890s. Tin ceiling panels from a church in Biddeford are accented with a toe rail made from 100-year-old crown moldings. The counter is made from 1790 pine boards.
With the help of two carpenters, arches from bits of reclaimed wood were added to give the cafe area a focal point. Joyal admired the barn’s classic structure and knew what it needed for an update: “Bring the outside in.” A corrugated tin ceiling was repurposed for an indoor roof. The lamp overhead was Amy’s great-grandmother’s. “It used to be kerosene and was rewired for electricity,” she said.
Underneath, customers soon will gather around a long pine community table to dip flakey croissants into locally roasted coffee. The well-appointed interior could be at home in any major city, but Boulangerie feels very Maine.
“The bread is good, but they are here to see the barn,” Zachary Tyson said of curious locals sneaking peeks before opening day. Can you blame them?
“Bread is made of very natural things, and the building is very natural,” he said. “Both are artisan ideas.”