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Hillcrest Bakery Bread And Cie Uses Humor To Reopen, Enforce Social Distancing Rules

Two baguette distance is required at bakery and cafe

Photo by Beth Accomando

On Friday, Bread and Cie's bakery and cafe in Hillcrest reopened for dine-in business.

Restaurants were allowed to reopen over the weekend but with certain guidelines in effect. Bread and Cie in Hillcrest is using humor to help customers abide by the social distancing rules.

When you enter Bread and Cie's cafe on University Avenue the first thing you might notice in front of the cashiers are construction helmets with a three-foot long baguette attached to each side and a seal of approval from the Cafe Distancing Defense System.

As I began my interview with Bread and Cie owner Charles Kaufman he puts one of the construction helmets on and removes his mask.

Reported by Beth Accomando , Video by Mike Damron

"I need to put my cafe social distancing hat on, that way I can remove my mask," he told me. "These baguettes ensure that there's six feet between me and anybody around me. One of the things that we're having now is customers wearing the baguette social distancing hat, we find that is effective and works."

Photo by Beth Accomando

To remind patrons what social distancing means, Bread and Cie's Charles Kaufman designed these baguette hats so that if two people are wearing them they will be reminded of the proper six foot apart distance demanded by new rules as business reopen

In bread terms, social distancing is two baguettes. Wearing the hat is optional but the social distancing is required.

Kaufman, who left a career in filmmaking (that's another story but he did make the original "Mother's Day") to bake bread, still likes to exercise his creativity whenever he can, be it in creating fun ways to enforce rules or in the bakery’s social media videos. One video showed an employee passing a football shaped bread from the cafe's door to a patron in a car and another had a server using one of the six-foot plus shovel like oven peel to serve Kaufman food from a safe distance.

He said the videos are good for employee moral and keep him sane.

Photo credit: Bread and Cie

Frame grabs from a pair of Bread and Cie's social media videos. Charles Kaufman is seated in video to the right.

Since 1994 Bread and Cie has boasted that it is open and baking every day of the year except Christmas. It even continued to bake and do take out and delivery when the coronavirus pandemic forced a statewide shutdown. But on Thursday Kaufman was told he could reopen the café so long as certain guidelines were enforced — like reduced capacity.

"What we've done is we've spaced the tables, but we also put tables where people cannot sit because we put other characters at the tables to ensure that there's enough distance between the tables that can be occupied," Kaufman said.

These "characters" range from furry life-size Muppet-like creatures to hens pecking at ciabattas.

Photo by Beth Accomando

Some of the "characters" you'll meet at Bread and Cie. They occupy tables that need to be kept vacant so that the cafe does not exceed the new requirement for restricted dine-in capacity.

Bread and Cie's regular customers are used to Kaufman's sense of humor and have even come to expect it. Right now he is using that humor to try and keep both customers and employees safe, and that is of the utmost importance to Kaufman.

"One of the reasons why we're trying to keep it light and fun is we find that customers are more are more agreeable to the requirements that we're asking of them — masks and and keeping the appropriate distance," Kaufman said.

"We have to actually have two people full-time greeting people," he explained. "We kind of explain to the customers what the protocol is now. We also have to have someone to constantly spray down the tables and chairs and bathrooms and that kind of thing. And next, we're thinking of hosing down all the customers out front prior to entering but we have to get a fire hose extension for that."

Kaufman's good humor, along with its food, have made Bread and Cie a cherished part of the Hillcrest community.

"I think we are a community place here, so I think people get some sort of comfort out of it," he said. "Plus, it's more fun. I mean, it's more fun to serve customers and welcome back the folks in our community. The way I see it, if you can't be profitable, at least be funny. And during these times, we really cannot be profitable."

Kaufman did see a spike up in business over the weekend as patrons sat among furry muppet-like creatures to enjoy some pastries and sandwiches outside of their homes.

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Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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