WILD OATS BAKERY & CAFE is located in the Tontine Mall in Brunswick.

WILD OATS BAKERY & CAFE is located in the Tontine Mall in Brunswick.

Do you know what the word Tontine means, as in the Tontine Mall in Brunswick? Neither did I until Becky Shepherd, owner of Wild Oats Bakery, told me.

“Basically, it’s an investment scheme, but it’s also a sort of lottery. Where each member pays an agreed sum into a fund, and then receives a sort of annuity. But as investors die each share is worth more and eventually the last person alive gets all the money,” said Shepherd.

When she started working at the Tontine Mall 22 years ago, the owner of the mall told her that story. But she wasn’t always baking in the mall.

“Food has always been really important to me and in my family. I grew up the youngest of seven children and gathering around food was always really central.”

“Food has always been really important to me and in my family. I grew up the youngest of seven children and gathering around food was always really central.”

In fact, she grew up in Massachusetts, but came to Maine to study at the University of Maine in Orono. Armed with an anthropology degree and not knowing what to do, she started running a small retail store in the Tontine Mall with her husband, David Shepherd.

THE KITCHEN AREA for Wild Oats Bakery & Cafe in Brunswick. Owner Becky Shepherd currently has about 30 people on staff, but is nearly always looking for more help (positions are listed on the door).

THE KITCHEN AREA for Wild Oats Bakery & Cafe in Brunswick. Owner Becky Shepherd currently has about 30 people on staff, but is nearly always looking for more help (positions are listed on the door).

But her real passion was food, so when the owner of the mall offered her a chance to open a bakery and café combo, promising to help pay for some of the renovations, she jumped at the opportunity.

SHELLEY PROPHETT selects items at Wild Oats in Brunswick.

SHELLEY PROPHETT selects items at Wild Oats in Brunswick.

“We started as a bakery, offering fresh breads and soups. I really enjoy baking bread, making fresh breads and soup. That’s what I really wanted to do,” she said. “Food has always been really important to me and in my family. I grew up the youngest of seven children and gathering around food was always really central.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Four major renovations and upgrades later, Wild Oats is now able to seat nearly 100 people. The latest renovation added three freezers and five fridges to the back wall of the bakery. This allows Shepherd to offer frozen, ready-to-eat meals as well as pre-made sandwiches, smoothies, her famous Aunt Pandy’s tea as well as her newest creation, Chia Seed Cider.

A RECENT RENOVATION at Wild Oats included more room for enjoying its bakery and cafe products.

A RECENT RENOVATION at Wild Oats included more room for enjoying its bakery and cafe products.

“It has actual chia seeds in it, you know those ones people put on clay heads and grow. We all laughed, but when you put chia seeds in liquid they solidify, sort of, and make the cider thick and crunchy. Everyone who works here keeps saying like in the commercial ‘ch …ch … chi chia,’” said Shepherd.

OFFERING FOUR-TO-FIVE types of breads on average, the Brunswick bakery also makes available countless varieties of scones or muffins, plain and flavored biscuits, a large selection of cookies, homemade granola, pies, cakes and cupcakes as well as nearly a dozen types of soup, frozen and fresh ready-to-eat meals, quiches, smoothies, muesli, yogurt parfaits, bake your own pies and coffee fresh or by the pound.

OFFERING FOUR-TO-FIVE types of breads on average, the Brunswick bakery also makes available countless varieties of scones or muffins, plain and flavored biscuits, a large selection of cookies, homemade granola, pies, cakes and cupcakes as well as nearly a dozen types of soup, frozen and fresh ready-to-eat meals, quiches, smoothies, muesli, yogurt parfaits, bake your own pies and coffee fresh or by the pound.

She feels a level of accomplishment at the variety of items she is able to offer customers seven days per week.

FOUR MAJOR RENOVATIONS and upgrades later, Wild Oats is now able to seat nearly 100 people.

FOUR MAJOR RENOVATIONS and upgrades later, Wild Oats is now able to seat nearly 100 people.

“We are open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. We only offer fresh breads Tuesdays through Saturdays because the baker has to work overnight. But we have all kinds of other baked goods on a daily basis,” she said.

Offering four-to-five types of breads on average, the Brunswick bakery also makes available countless varieties of scones or muffins, plain and flavored biscuits, a large selection of cookies, homemade granola, pies, cakes and cupcakes as well as nearly a dozen types of soup, frozen and fresh ready-to-eat meals, quiches, smoothies, muesli, yogurt parfaits, bake your own pies and coffee fresh or by the pound.

“We sell Wicked Joe’s coffee, which is from right here in Brunswick. And we offer several varieties of Carrabassett Coffee, which I think we are the only retailer in the area who offers coffee from Kingfield and the Carrabassett River Valley,” said Shepherd.

Expanding her food and drink selections, adding more square footage and seating, and constantly creating new soups and other items are all grand accomplishments, but more recently Shepherd has something really unique to shout about. “We just won Retailer of the Year from the Maine Merchants Association. That was a big surprise and a great honor,” she said.

On the Maine Merchants Association website (www.mainemerchants.org) it says: “Maine Merchants Association recently chose retailer and bakery extraordinaire Wild Oats Bakery & Café of Brunswick, Maine as its 2012 Retailer of the Year. The Retailer of the Year Award has three main criteria: continued growth in employees or sales; commitment of company resources to community projects; and creation of a positive work environment for all employees. Wild Oats Bakery & Café exceeded the criteria on all counts.”

What made Shepherd the most excited about the award was that her employees emphasized that the bakery as a very good place to work.

“People always assume that because we are often looking for people or hiring new people that we have a huge turnover. But in fact it’s because we are growing and expanding so much that we need more help,” said Shepherd.

She currently has about 30 people on staff, but is nearly continually looking for more help (positions are listed on the door). Wild Oats Bakery is very active on Facebook and often offers coupons or specials to customers through its page — so “like” them through Facebook for constant updates.


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