Practically invisible at a glance, a door to the far right of the patio gives entrance to the Kitchen at Hartford Public Library, a small café and bakery that provides a welcome alternative to Dunkin Donuts.
Pre-packaged salads and parfaits filled a refrigeration case. Another display held small pies. The chalkboard promised sandwiches ranging from a white bean hummus with spinach and roasted tomatoes on caramelized onion focaccia, to a turkey with apple mayonnaise and cheddar cheese on ciabatta roll. Quiche and scones are some of the breakfast options.
Before the speeches and ribbon cutting this morning, café staff stayed in motion, replenishing the complimentary coffee, tea, fruit, and tray of walnut scones and cheese danishes.
This café is a sensible fit.
The recent closure of La Paloma Sabanera meant a loss of a third place in Hartford — a spot where people are permitted to linger, socialize, and grab a chai. The Kitchen at Hartford Public Library provides such a space.
It also provides a way for people to stay longer in the library. Instead of leaving as soon as one gets hungry, refueling without exiting the building has become an option.
Various library employees are excited to have something different for lunch and at catered meetings.
Besides providing nourishment, the Kitchen at Hartford Public Library will be offering job training. The CT Works@HPL initiative located in the same building makes permanent job placement a possibility.
A teaching kitchen elsewhere in the library will be the location of cooking classes for café and library patrons.
Cary Wheaton, the Executive Director of Billings Forge Community Works explained her role in getting this project out of stagnation-mode and into operation: “I’m wicked pushy.”
“That’s partially how we got here today,” she said.
Here is a room with glass walls, offering views of Main Street, Arch Street, and the inside of the library. Between the building and Main Street is a patio that has finally been treated to a makeover, making it welcoming. There are tables with umbrellas, BOTS POTS, and other types of vegetation. Inside, another wall is painted, with some of the artwork still in progress. There is access to open Wi-Fi.
At the ribbon cutting, Mayor Segarra called this “an incredible moment,” which might seem like an embellishment to those unfamiliar with Hartford, but between the job training opportunities and a return of refreshments to the library — years ago there was a kiosk in the building — this café can activate both underutilized physical spaces as well as members of the community who want nothing more than a place to sit and chat, and maybe have a cupcake.