Renovations are in the final stretch at the Waterbury Train Station, where Black Cap Coffee & Bakery of Vermont expects to open its doors on Sunday, November 27.
The owner, Laura Vilalta, said that staff was hired and that the construction, installation, etc. is nearing completion with the opening scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend.
Going forward, Vilalta said Black Cap’s hours will be daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the winter and could be adjusted based on demand and staffing.
However, the opening will mark more than just the arrival of a new cafe and bakery in downtown Waterbury. The historic train station since its restoration in 2006 has been a popular hub of activity that closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
For nearly 14 years, the station was the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Café and Visitor Center, combining a coffee shop, retail store, and seating for customers to linger between exhibits telling the story of Vermont’s largest coffee company. with local roots. Its location made it a destination for Waterbury residents, weekday workers in town, and tourists. Foot traffic was estimated at 200,000 people passing each year by 2020.
Following the closure in March 2020, Green Mountain’s parent company, Keurig Dr. Pepper, announced in January 2021 that it would no longer reopen or run the cafe. In the summer of 2021, Amtrak resumed its passenger train service to Vermont, which briefly twice daily uses the small community room section of the building when trains run.
But the main space has been closed to the public for two and a half years. Activity started there this summer after Black Cap stepped up in March to lease most of the building. The transaction involved the termination of a 20-year lease with Keurig. Representatives for Revitalizing Waterbury, which owns the station, have not said the new lease with Black Cap will last more than 10 years.
Built in 1875, the train station has long been a focal point in downtown Waterbury, but fell into disrepair in the late 20th century. His restoration was the second major undertaking for Revitalizing Waterbury after he spearheaded the restoration of the Stimson and Graves building on Stowe Street. The nonprofit economic development organization began planning for the train station around 1997, and through fundraising and grants, restoration was completed in 2006.
Last year, while the station was closed and before Amtrak resumed service, the exterior of the station was painted and some brickwork was restored. Once Black Cap signed off this year, construction began to tweak the interior creating a kitchen and bakery that will produce food for the Waterbury location, as well as Black Cap’s cafe at Church Street Marketplace in Burlington.
The company also operates coffee shops in Stowe and Morrisville. Going forward, the Stowe location will supply that store and the Morrisville location, according to general manager Danielle Dolisie, who was setting up shop inside the train station Friday.
The space inside the main entrance looks a lot like when Green Mountain Coffee Roasters ran the cafe. The former operators left behind tables, chairs, and stools that Black Cap will continue to use. There’s a fresh coat of paint on the walls and a new menu at the counter where customers will be able to order coffee drinks, smoothies, breakfasts and lunches. Black Cap serves Brave coffee that is roasted in Waterbury.
Dolisie has been with the company for more than seven years and has been a part of each of Black Cap’s expansions from Stowe to Morrisville in 2017 and to Burlington during the pandemic. Her original café in Stowe opened in 2012.
He said the Waterbury location will have many similarities to the other locations: the menu, the atmosphere, the company-branded merchandise, as well as maple products, and finally, Vermont-themed cards and gifts provided by the partner. Stowe Kitchen Bath & Linens in Stowe. The Waterbury location right now will not sell beer like its other stores, he said, noting that offering alcohol involves special permits and training for staff and that Waterbury already has many beer retailers. “It’s not a big part of what we do,” he said.
Deputy General Manager María Cabezas said that each location has two managers on site and some of the staff is shared. The Waterbury store will likely have about a dozen employees working there to operate seven days a week. Black Cap’s head baker, Ashia Messier, who has been with the company for five years, will work at the Waterbury bakery, Cabezas said. Dolisie added that the operation would also look to add catering services once it is established.
Patrons familiar with the Green Mountain cafe will remember the large seating area in the central section of the train station earlier. That space is now the Black Cap Bakery which will be open for customers to see the staff at work. Burnished wood half walls are topped with sheer panels and the space is open to the ceiling. Large commercial mixers stand at the ready alongside shelves packed with new utensils, pans, and packets of flour, sugar, and other ingredients. Blodgett ovens line the far wall.
Indoor seating for about 30 people is near the cafe counter at tables and counters that line the walls. In the warmer months it will include the open-air train station platform. “I can’t wait for us to use that porch, it’s beautiful,” Dolisie said.