Mountain Brook's Continental Bakery is opening a second location in downtown Birmingham Continental Bakery will open a second location in downtown Birmingham in the former Mix bakery and cafe space at 1820 Fourth Ave. North in the One Federal Place building. (Bob Carltonfirstname.lastname@example.org)"We've done a lot to build that space up, and I think that's one dead space that's going to continue to have life." -- Chris Dupont
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Continental Bakery, whose fragrant breads and flaky pastries have brought a European charm to Mountain Brook's English Village for nearly three decades, will open a second location in downtown Birmingham later this month.
Continental Bakery Downtown, as it will be called, is taking over the space formerly occupied by Mix bakery and cafe in the One Federal Place building at 1820 Fourth Ave. North.
Mix, which opened three years ago, closed on Dec. 20 to make way for Continental Bakery owner Carole Griffin to move in. Griffin spent a few weeks at Mix before it closed to get acquainted with the location and the customers.
Griffin has scheduled a grand opening for Jan. 21, with a soft opening a few days before.
Birmingham chef and Mix owner Chris Dupont said Continental Bakery should pick up right where Mix left off, including serving a few favorites from the Mix lunch menu.
"I invited her in and we made a handshake agreement," Dupont told AL.com. "I said, 'You need to hang out for about three weeks or so to see what we do, to see if it's something you would be interested in.'
"She was there almost a month, watching the customers, watching our employees," Dupont added. "We spent some time helping her employees transition. All of our staffs are working together to make sure that when she opens she has all of the information she needs to be successful."
Dupont also owns the fine-dining restaurant Cafe Dupont, and this past fall, -- both of which are 20th Street North downtown. He has plans to open a pub and grill called Dupont Public House later this year in Homewood's SoHo Square.
"With all of the other projects I've got going on, I felt this (Mix) was just taking too much mental energy," he said. "Nothing is being sold. Carole is just taking over the lease."Carole Griffin, who opened Continental Bakery in Mountain Brook in 1985, says she has been looking for the right place to open a downtown Birmingham location for several years. (Birmingham News archives)
Griffin, who has fond memories of visiting her grandfather's insurance office in the Lyric building when she was a little girl, said she has been looking to open another bakery downtown for several years.
This, she said, is the right place and the right time.
"I have this very emotional attachment to the idea of being down here," she said. "And we have looked at several options (before).
"I feel like this happened at exactly the right time," she added. "It's a dream fulfilled, just getting to be part of the revitalization of this wonderful city, which is my home. I think it's a really exciting time for downtown."
Griffin opened on Cahaba Road in English Village in 1985, and 10 years later, she opened the adjoining French cafe .
"We are very comfortable and established in English Village, but we are just busting at the seams over there," she said. "We have 3,000 square feet, and between Continental Bakery and Chez Lulu, we have every inch of that space taken up.
"Our kitchen is a baking kitchen, with oven-based cuisines," she added. "That's why we did tarts and all of that. This (Mix) kitchen allows us to expand those offerings."
The lunch menu at Continental Bakery Downtown will include a taste of Mix (including the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich and the popular Power Salad, with smoked salmon, organic greens and soft-poached egg), along with some favorites from Continental Bakery and Chez Lulu menus (including the tarragon chicken salad and the goat cheese, pear and walnut salad).
Croissants, scones, bagels and muffins will be available for breakfast, along with coffee, cappuccino and espresso.
Hours will be 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, Griffin said, but the downtown bakery may eventually stay open later if there is a demand.Griffin, a performance artist who formerly sang in the Birmingham band the Sugar La-Las, said the decor will be in keeping with the bakery's setting in the heart of downtown's Theater District.
For the past several days, the windows of the building have been covered with Christmas wrapping paper while Griffin transforms the interior, adding lots of red and gold reminiscent of the Alabama Theatre.
"Some folks are like, 'Are you going to Lulu the place up?'" she said, laughing. "We are coming in with some changes. We are trying to be referential to the Alabama Theatre and to the Lyric Theatre, as far as the feel of the place, (with) grand, lustrous colors."
, the One Federal Place location had been home to the fine-dining restaurant G, but after G moved out in 2006, it was dark for several years.
Now, Dupont said, it is a vibrant space with a steady clientele and an energetic vibe. Continental Bakery should fit right in, he added.
"When we started there, it was a business that had been closed for almost five years," Dupont said. "It took us almost two years to create a path to the door again. We sent from zero (customers) to 120 people a day who make a path to that door.
"We've done a lot to build that space up, and I think that's one dead space that's going to continue to have life," he added. "That's the real issue for me, is that we've created a business. It's not mine now, but we've created another operator for the downtown area."
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