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The Commons
Photo 1

Courtesy photo

An employee at The Works makes a quinoa bowl, one of several new menu items featured in the newly renovated bakery/café.

Business

The Works in progress

Founder sees expansion of hours, menu as another step forward for a socially responsible eatery

Originally published in The Commons issue #400 (Wednesday, March 22, 2017).



BRATTLEBORO—The Works Bakery and Café has undergone some major structural renovations and changes to its menu, with more menu items still to come.

Richard French, a founder of the company in 1988 who now serves as president, sees all the changes as not just a renovation, but also a transformation — spurred by the sociocultural roots of the Vermont town.

“I lived and went to high school and college in Vermont,” French said. “In the mid-seventies, my dad lived right across the street from our café. We shopped in Brattleboro. My dad [would] ride his bike to work down Putney Road.”

While Brattleboro is still much a part of his history, French opened his stores elsewhere throughout New England before he created his eco-conscious location at 118 Main St.

The expansion in 2010 further cultivated his philosophy of the “triple bottom line,” which balances business priorities among people, planet, and profits, he said.

“[Moving to Brattleboro] was what elevated me [professionally],” French said. “It pushed me to really be looking at the sourcing of our meat[s], whether they were humanely raised, whether they were antibiotic- and hormone-free. We made those commitments when we came to Brattleboro.”

Adding to the menu

French said he has amended The Works’ service procedures to make them more efficient.

The recipes and procedures are all reflective of the earth-friendly community in which the store sustains itself, he said.

Organic quinoa bowls, grilled breakfast burritos, a revamped salad menu, and a selection of pressed juices give health-conscious consumers more options. Response to the new items is prompting him to keep the stores open later.

Pork, poultry, and eggs are purchased from local family farms that adhere to animal- and environment-friendly standards. Coffee is obtained from a sustainable Costa Rican plantation.

French said the café’s macaroni and cheese uses Vermont cheddar cheese and other dairy products that are free of recombinant bovine growth hormone, and unbleached flour.

“Everybody wears organic cotton t-shirts that come from a wind-powered farm,” he added.

The structure of the stores themselves embody sustainability, from the mindfully-harvested wood décor, to the Energy Star kitchen equipment, and the compostable hot cups.

“We have a green specialist on staff,” French said, noting that The Works conducts “regular green audits to identify improvements.”

French said the business focuses on fair treatment of employees, too, offering an average hourly rate of $12, three weeks of paid vacation, and pay for up to 20 nonprofit volunteer hours per year.

Soon to come will be The Works’ pressed juices and aqua fresca (fruit- and vegetable-infused water) drink options. Some of the pressed juices — with names like “The Beet Goes on” and “Hangover Be Gone” — will include ingredients such as apple, lemon, ginger, spinach, cilantro, cucumber, kale, beets, and carrots.

French said he has received numerous franchise inquiries over the years. So far, he has granted only a single license, but he is gearing up for more.

Stuart Skorman, an entrepreneur who has founded a variety of high-profile companies and who has served as an executive with the former Bread and Circus natural foods chain, is teaming with French to help make that happen.

“I am incredibly impressed with what Richard has accomplished here,” says the California-based Skorman, who serves the company as a business adviser and board member. “He’s always been an innovator.”

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