Falmouth’s iconic European Bakery under new ownership

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FALMOUTH — After almost 30 years under the same owner, the European Bakery and Tea Room, on the northern end of Route 1, has been sold.

Helen Budri, who founded the bakery in 1989, sold the business to Adam Johnson and his wife, who are former teachers from Lewiston.

“It was a hard decision because our customers are our family and we love our work,” Budri said this week. But she decided to sell, she said, because “after 28 years we wanted more time with family. It was (just) time.”

The bakery was a family affair from the start, with Helen’s mother providing bookkeeping services and her father helping out customers at the front counter. When Helen and her husband, Emil, married in the mid-1990s, he joined the bakery team, too. And the couple’s two daughters grew up working in the business.

“Many people never thought I would make it … but it feels great knowing we proved them all wrong,” Budri said.

She initially leased the building at 395 U.S. Route 1, but bought it “after seeing that we were going to make it,” Budri, who was a registered nurse, said. “I opened the bakery because baking was my passion. It is my true, God-given talent.”

Now she hopes her longtime customers give Johnson a chance.

“He’s a very nice person, is excited about taking over the bakery (and) he has (some) new ideas” for the business, Budri said.

Johnson said customers “have been outstanding. Well wishes and welcomes have been abundant during this time, which feels great.”

He also said he understands that some customers may be worried about the change in ownership, particularly because “Helen has been such a cornerstone in Falmouth.”

But, he said, “Helen and Emil stressed that quality is very important (and) we are very much committed to continue using only the best products.”

Johnson said “no major changes are in the works. (The) recipes will be the same … and the current staff is very experienced.”

However, he will put in new cash registers this month to help with bookkeeping and also to “track what our customers enjoy most.” Minor cosmetic changes, include replacing the building’s old awnings, are also planned.

“Since we have been here it’s been such a great experience,” Johnson said. “The customers of the European Bakery have been so welcoming and friendly. Waking up early to come to work is enjoyable again.”

He said he and his wife, Kelly, “decided that we needed a life change and wanted to pursue something a little different. We wanted to purchase a successful business that we could find rewarding and would enjoy.

“Both of us enjoy cooking and trying different recipes when we host gatherings at our home. I have learned so much in the past few months … and now that the holidays are over, I am excited to be able to spend more time with the bakers to learn more about what they do.”

The Johnsons decided to leave teaching after Kelly was diagnosed with colon cancer two years ago.

“She was cleared of cancer during her one-year check-up and we talked about how short life is,” Johnson said. “Not being happy with teaching, we (opted) for a change. When we learned that the bakery was for sale … we were extremely impressed.”

Budri said her husband would continue to work at the bakery, at least part time, but she hasn’t decided what she’ll do.

She said she and Emil “mostly enjoyed our customers and … our employees, who have become family.”

While she owned the bakery, Budri was known for her support of community causes, such as the Maine chapter of the Make a Wish Foundation, and local sports teams.

“One of our favorite things to do at Christmas was to bring cakes (and) pastries to all the Falmouth schools, Fire (and) Police departments and to our neighbors and friends,” She said. “The customers and giving were my favorite things.”

Budri said she also thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of creating specialty items for customers. “They would bring us recipes or ask for special pastries and we were able to make them,” she said. “It was great being able to make them happy this way.”

In addition to her customers, Budri said her employees made the bakery a great place to work.

“I loved having young men and women work at the bakery for their first job,” she said. “I enjoyed teaching them and helping them learn customer service (skills). They all come back and work during their college breaks until they fly away and start their careers. I will remember them all fondly.

“I would like to tell all our customers, our extended family, thank you, (although) thank you is not enough,” Budri said. “I will never forget my first Christmas at the bakery. I bought a small tree and had no ornaments. My customers brought me ornaments to hang on the tree (and) when my kids were born they brought me gifts.

“I don’t know if any other business has the kind of loving and supportive customers as we have had,” she said. “We are truly blessed. Thank you. We love you all.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Helen Budri received balloons and a card signed by customers on her last day on the job at the European Bakery and Tea Room on Route 1 in Falmouth.

The new owner promises not much will change at the European Bakery,  395 U.S. Route 1, Falmouth.

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