SCARBOROUGH – He’s got the same Scala bread recipe and pastries that people used to stand in line for on Brighton Avenue in Portland.

But instead of a typical storefront, this time around Gari Piscopo has an entirely different view.

Seven years after closing Piscopo’s Bakery in the Rosemont neighborhood, Piscopo has opened a scaled-down version of his bakery inside the Highland Avenue Greenhouse and Farm Market.

“A lot of the old customers have come in and said hello,” Piscopo said. “I’m trying to get all of them back.”

For this unusual tandem — a bakery inside a greenhouse — Piscopo gives credit to Joe Viscone, the third-generation owner of the business on Highland Avenue.

Piscopo’s wife, Missi, was buying wreaths at the market during the Christmas season last year. The Piscopos already knew Viscone because they used to sell their products at wholesale to several markets in Scarborough, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth. Viscone told Missi Piscopo that he was interested in expanding his business with a bakery, and he jokingly asked if the Piscopos would sell him the recipe for their delicious Scala bread.

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“She told him that I had been thinking about doing my own thing,” Gari Piscopo said. “He said, ‘Do it here.’ I came out and talked to Joe, and that was it.”

Beginning in January, Piscopo and Viscone worked together to build the small bakery, which opened May 6.

“I really wanted to add a bakery, but I didn’t just want to throw anyone in there. I wanted the best,” Viscone said.

The core of the Highland Avenue Greenhouse business is the sale of flowers, native produce and Christmas trees.

This week, Viscone was installing an outdoor refrigerator, which will allow Piscopo to expand his selection of goods. He wants to get back to making the chicken pies that were his best-seller when he ran the bakery on Brighton Avenue.

Piscopo, who grew up in South Portland and graduated from high school there in 1982, got his start as a teenager washing dishes at Uncle Andy’s on Ocean Street. He started baking and took a job with Guenter Ahrens, a German baker who ran Guenter’s at 559 Brighton Ave. in Portland.

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“He taught me basically everything I know,” Piscopo said.

When Ahrens was ready to retire, Piscopo and his wife bought the business and the building. Between 1989 and 2004, the Piscopos built up their customer base and a reputation.

“We would do a couple hundred chicken pies every Wednesday. We were doing 15 or 20 wedding cakes a weekend. It was amazing the volume we could produce out of such a small space,” Piscopo said. “We basically lived there around the clock.”

Feeling burned out, the couple sold the business in 2004. The new owners transformed the space into the Rosemont Bakery and Market.

For the past seven years, Piscopo has primarily worked in the construction business. But about a year ago he had the itch to return to baking. While the greenhouse side of the business closes for a few months in the winter, Piscopo hopes to operate the bakery year-round.

“This is perfect,” Piscopo said of the arrangement at the greenhouse. “I’m definitely working on a smaller scale than I used to. It’s going really well.”

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

[email protected]

 


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