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Why are they SO sour at Bakery Normand?

  • v

I have been going to Bakery Normand in Northampton just about every week. I am a pleasant enough fellow. Smile, please, thank you. But the help there is uniformly snarley, glum, and just plain sour. The baked goods are delicious, but I almost dread going in there to fork over my hard earned money to people who never treat me like a regular customer.

Do others have this same experience..why do you think??

At any rate, I recently found an alternative and am now bringing all my biz over to Woodstar Cafe around the corner. Nice folks. The young lady who opened it is a CIA graduate and the baked goods are very good.

Better get your act together, Normand. Be nice and appreciative or you'll find other good customers gladly abandoning your sour little enterprise. Maybe I'll even come back if you promise to at least remember my face after all these years.

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  1. I got a nasty snarl in the middle of adding onto an already large order the first time I went there, and I was so ticked that I told her to forget the whole thing (which meant she had to toss some, since she'd touched the stuff WITH HER BARE HANDS!!). I have never been back. Glad to hear the Woodstar is good.

    If you're willing to leave Noho, though, Vinny, there is a great bakery on Cottage Street in Easthampton (Rt. 141.), called Sunrise Pastries. The baker is a CIA trained baker as well, and he makes the best croissants (plain and ham and cheese), pain au chocolat, danishes, and other assorted pastries that I have ever eaten, even in Paris. (Except maybe the doughnuts, which are a little heavy to me.) They also make breads (great cheddar herb rolls and marble rye) cakes, (ooh, the carrot cake with oodles of cream cheese frosting) and pastries that you'll recognize as being served at some of the finer restaurants in the area. Those fruit mousses in chocolate cups? Yeah, Sunrise.

    It's worth the trip, and worth getting up early on the weekend. They start to run out of the ham and cheese croissants and danishes around 9. They have Green Mountain Coffees, too, so you can sit and eat and drink.

    While you're in town, though, the Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters on Union Street has great scones and biscotti.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Erika

      The owner and baker of Bakery Normand, Bob Normand, is simply an unpleasant human being. We used to be big customers, buying loaves regularly and even shlepping them to friends out of town as a special treat. I still think that their natural sour dough, pain au levain, is one of the best breads I have ever had, comparable to pain poilaine, but....

      Every so often something foul would drop into one of their speciality breads, a heavy German style rye or something similar. The first time I got sick and they were all apologetic and gave us a fifty dollar gift certificate. The second time, perhaps two or three years later, we called and dropped off the offending slice of bread. I had spit the bad part out immediately and this time had no ill effects. When my wife came in to talk to Bob Normand about it, he denied any knowledge. It turned nasty. They had words and my wife left in a huff, vowing never to return. Soto voce, one of his employees said that they had gotten the piece of bread, but they seem to have lost it.

      After that we basically stopped going there. Every few months I might buy something, but never would I gave him the business we once had.

      I have friends in the local food and catering business who have so not enjoyed their dealings with him that they avoid his products even though they appreciate the quality. He does not have a good reputation as an employer. A friend who owns a local shop echoed that judgment. Turnover among employees in his bakery is very high. He is not pleasant to work for. Hence the sour atmosphere.

      As for his products, some of his breads are absolutely first rate, but I don't admire his Viennese style pastries. Years ago he had done French pastry -- very well I am told -- but for reasons ascribed to his peculiar personality, he abandoned that style completely.

      Woodstar is a really lovely place. Their baked goods are superb. Yesterday I had one of the best baguettes I have ever tasted in the United States, not saying a lot, but still... Their blueberry muffins burst with berries. Their pumpkin chocolate chip cookie -- really a mini-muffin -- is superb. I hope they give Bob Normand a run for his money. Maybe he will try to get his act together and start treating people better.

      Woodstar is located in the old firehouse on Masonic St. Past Packard's and Fresh Pasta company, across the street from the phone company. It is about 3 minutes walk from Normand.

      1. re: VivreManger

        I stopped buying my weekly challah at Normand and have gone over to Woodstar. I just could not stand the pissy attitude every time I went in. Even my wife, who is the most easy going person and who is usually very forgiving of sub-par service was made to feel uncomfortable at Normand.

        1. re: Hey Moe
          Robert J. Koenig

          The plain and simple fact of the matter is that Rebecca Sim, Woodstar Cafe's proprietor, is a winner.

    2. I was wondering the same thing when I was there yesterday! I have been there in the last four years and they hardly ever smile.

      Where is this Woodstar Cafe? Is it within walking distance of Bakery Normand? (I commute by bus, no car)

      1. You should write them a letter explaining your dismay with their attitude. Some people don't even know they are nasty. And tell all your freinds and associates.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mike

          I totally agree with the idea of either speaking to a manager and/or writing a letter. I've never been to this bakery (I live in PA), but it's hard to imagine being sour and miseable in a BAKERY of all places-- one of the happier places on earth, to ME! My husband is a believer in just "voting with his feet", but the older I get, the more I'm likely to speak up about situations like this. (Chowhound has taught me a lot about that, too!)

        2. yep. they're mean there. i have no idea why. i buy 2 or 3 loaves of good bread every week, and i've never gone there for my bread. when woodstar doesn't have raisin scones, i'll go to normand for their currant ones!

          woodstar is great. their sandwiches are fantastic, too.

          1. It's obvious Vinny has NEVER worked in the food service industry, cause if he has, I'm sure he would know that ordering a sales person to " Smile, and say thank you" is not only degrading , it's down right RUDE! Keep in mind Vinny, that sales people work hard and encounter very demanding personalities all day long--people like yourself!!! I've worked in sales for a long time and I know first hand it's not easy, not to mention it barely pays the bills! For God sakes man , it's only bread. RELAX!!!

            Ex-Normand Employee

            3 Replies
            1. re: straberry shortcake

              straberry shortcake

              You need to re-read Vinny Clams posting. He didn't say he "orders" the sales person to "Smile and say thank you." He is describing HIMSELF in that sentence. It indicates that as a "pleasant enough fellow" that he smiles, says please and thank you.

              Also, without exception everyone posting here is consistant in their description of the "sour" attitude at this bakery. That's generally indicative of accuracy. If only a SMALL portion of reviewers are unhappy with a business, you can sometimes attribute it to an occasional mis-step on the part of the business. However, when 100% of the reviewers have the same point of view, most likely it's an accurate description.

              1. re: PerryM

                There is also the Hungry Ghost and Bread Euphoria, which both have great bread and good cheer. I would NEVER buy anyhting at Normand.

              2. re: straberry shortcake

                Another sour vote here, unfortunately. The very few times I went to Normand, I had the same uneasy feeling. No one was rude or anything, and typically, too friendly of a service makes me uncomfortable (!), but I remember wondering why everyone seemed so sad.

              3. I've been going to Bakery Normand for years and have NEVER encountered a sour, rude, or even less than friendly sales person. NEVER. Patty, one of the owners, is simply the sweetest lady, and her staff is super-friendly. Perhaps you should try again because, by far, they have the best baked goods in Northampton and the entire Valley.

                5 Replies
                1. re: r00tarded

                  I have to disagree. patty is nice, Bob IS NOT and staff are often surly. I stopped going there years ago and tried again recently, and I almost left without buying anything,
                  And both Bread Euphoria and Hungry Ghost have better food, imo, as well as Henion.

                  1. re: magiesmom

                    Second that:

                    Patty is nice, but Bob is not and he is the BOSS. At the moment Hungry Ghost is closed, undergoing expansion, so the local choices are fewer. Last week I went into Normand after boycotting them for quite awhile. I tried their pain au levain. It simply was not as good as it used to be. Perhaps my standards have been raised by Hungry Ghost?

                    Sunrise in Easthampton is no longer in business, I believe. Hungry Ghost's reopening has been delayed, but the construction has proceeded quickly so they should be reopening sooner.

                    Another good local baker whose bread is sold in Serio's and other local markets is Il Jardin. Their main store is in South Deerfield, but they distribute all over the Valley.

                    1. re: VivreManger

                      Bob and Patty are both owners; Patty runs the front, Bob runs the back.

                      Sunrise closed.

                      1. re: r00tarded

                        Bread Euphoria is the BEST. (Haydenville, Rte 9, for anyone who might not know.)
                        Always pleasant and obliging staff, always good breads --- not to mention pizza, chocolate croissants, etc etc etc.
                        I have never understood the passion for Hungry Ghost (frankly I've always encountered major attitude there) but then again, I'm not a big fan of sourdough bread. Somehow either Bread Euphoria isn't sourdough or it's just different, but it's all terrific.

                        1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                          much of BE's bread is sourdough, but way less sour.
                          My favorite thing at HG is chocolate bread which is fantastic, but I am a huge BE fan.
                          Some of the bread at Woodstar is very good.