I first met Matt in the Fall of 2020 and, like so many introductions during the pandemic, ours was virtual. It was an interview of sorts — he was looking for a designer to build his new bakery's website — though it didn’t feel like one. We talked about our families, life in our small town of Sandy Hook, fishing, and football. Small talk, really. Though he had worked as a pastry chef at renowned locations like the Russian Tea Room and the Essex House Hotel in New York City, he didn’t find it necessary to talk about those experiences. To most people around here, he’s just Uncle Matt.
Like me, and millions of others, Matt acknowledged that he had lost his job as a result of the economic downturn caused by Covid-19. But, he didn’t immediately start to look for another job. Instead, he looked at the situation as an opportunity to collect his thoughts, get his personal and professional bearings in order, so to speak, and to finally follow intuition: his lifelong goal was to open a bakery and cafe. I let him know that I had started my own business for many of the same reasons. Our meeting might have seemed like chance, but it was actually situational circumstance.
We kept in touch over the ensuing months, occasionally checking-in to see how business was going. It turns out, opening a bakery takes a lot more planning that starting a design agency. Whereas I only needed a computer, and perhaps a little courage, Matt would need equipment and permits. And tables. And chairs. And supplies. And ingredients. And, of course, a physical bakery.
Along the way, I kept Matt informed of my own trials and tribulations, like projects I had been working on and pitching new business. We’d chat on the phone, text, and meet on Zoom, of course. He’d run his menu by me and ask my opinion about things I frankly hadn’t put much thought into – like what I thought was a fair price for a croissant. We grew to trust one another, and a friendship was forged before business ever started.
Though our homes are separated by a few short miles, the only way we saw one another was through our respective monitor screens. It would be months before we occupied the same physical space. We developed a website together, and built his brand from the ground up, entirely online. I suppose that’s not uncommon these days, but I still find it interesting – given that we’re essentially neighbors. For almost a year, I’d only seen his face framed by the thick border of my Mac. I couldn’t even tell you how tall he was.
Meeting Uncle Matt at his bakery for the first time didn’t come unnatural, even from 6 feet apart. It was just like getting together with an old friend. (The casual nature of a fist bump is less formal than a handshake.) He showed me around the kitchen and explained his vision for the customer experience. We talked a bit about family, about the next project and, the most exciting thing of all, his Grand Opening: Saturday June 26th. It’s a moment he’s been thinking about for a year – or a lifetime, depending on how you look at it.
I’m glad to have been a small part of Matt’s journey to opening Uncle Matt’s Bakery and Cafe. I’m sure there were ups and downs along the way, but I couldn't tell. He handled everything like his demeanor — calm, collected, and cool. I think that’s how most of his guests will get to know him, and I’m excited that so many others in town can finally get a chance to meet, Uncle Matt.