There is hope for me yet. A new shop at Sixth and Wakarusa streets is proving that a year's worth of being yelled at and having things thrown at you can result in good things.
Mark Gregory, the former head baker at The Merc, has opened Scratch Bakery at 4821 W. Sixth St., which is in the shopping center just west of Dillons.
In addition to his more than six years at The Merc, Gregory comes to the business with training from a renowned Hungarian pastry chef at the well-regarded 103 West restaurant in Atlanta.
"I worked with him for about a year, and most of that year was spent being yelled at and having things thrown at me," Gregory told me. "But I learned a lot."
(I'll be darn. All these years my wife has been training me to be a Hungarian pastry chef.)
Gregory plans to use his training to make Scratch a different style of Lawrence bakery. He wants to focus more on pastries, and less on the breads, donuts and cupcakes that are the fare of many bakeries in town.
That means the bakery will have multiple varieties of scones, puff pastries, croissants, quiches, cookies, and made-from-scratch cheesecake. Everything in the bakery will be made from scratch, keeping with the name of the establishment.
Patrons also should expect the menu to change frequently.
"I'll be very honest," Gregory said, "it will change as my whims change. One of my favorite things about working with food is that the more I do it, the more I feel like there is to learn. So, I'm always wanting to try something new."
The business, which is co-owned by Gregory and his wife, Ashlee Roll-Gregory, is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In other news and notes from around town:
• There are times that I have to hold on tight to my puff pastries when I'm the passenger in my wife's vehicle. One of them is whenever we go to make a right turn at the intersection of 23rd and Iowa.
If you recall, that intersection features the wide, swooping right turn lanes that, theoretically allow you to "merge" into traffic. As we reported earlier this week, the intersection is set for a major rebuild in 2014. Since that last report, I've had a chance to talk with the city engineer, and he told me that changes to those right turn lanes will be pretty noticeable with the new design.
Specifically, he said the right-turn lanes won't be wide and sweeping. Instead, they'll be tighter, shorter turns, and motorists turning right will be required to yield and wait for a gap in traffic to enter the roadway. That will be a big change for the intersection, but city officials don't believe it will result in longer lines of backed up cars waiting to turn right.
David Cronin, the city engineer, said he's recommending the new design because it will make the intersection safer for pedestrians, and should lead to fewer accidents. Work to remake the intersection will begin in the spring.
• Don't worry, though, Lawrence motorists won't have to wait until spring to have fun at 23rd and Iowa. There will be a warm-up act at the intersection, so to speak. City officials have announced that a major waterline replacement project will disrupt traffic at the intersection beginning in December.
Crews will replace a waterline on the north side of 23rd Street, which means westbound traffic will be significantly affected. The biggest change will be that the existing right-turn lane will be closed from roughly December through March. That could produce some back-ups at the intersection because one of the two westbound through lanes will double as a through lane and a right-turn lane. The intersection could get particularly congested just west of Ousdahl Road because that area temporarily will be reduced to one through lane for westbound traffic, before the road widens out as it approaches Iowa Street.
When the waterline project ends, the intersection improvements begin, so the 23rd and Iowa — which is the busiest intersection in town at about 60,000 vehicles a day — will be torn up for many months in a row.
• Those of you looking for an update on the bistro project in East Lawrence that we reported on yesterday: The applicant for the project asked for a last-minute deferral of the rezoning request at Tuesday night's City Commission meeting. So, I'll keep an eye out for when that returns to the commission's agenda.
It may seem odd that a duo with an M.I.T. background has opened a small bakery in the tucked away shopping center just behind the Office Depot at 25th and Iowa streets.
But Raymond Kung quickly clarifies.
"M.I.T. — Made in Taiwan," Kung says of himself and his business partner Hamlet Chang.
While it may not be the same as a degree from M.I.T., the background is providing a nice advantage for their new business, Formosa Bakery, which specializes in a Taiwanese-style of bread and pastry making.
The shop opened about a month ago at 2201 W. 25th Street. Currently it is only in the wholesale baking business selling breads and pastries to restaurants and coffee shops in the Lawrence and Kansas City area. But the business plans to open the shop up to retail sales next Thursday.
Customers will find many recognizable baked goods, such as cheesecake, tiramisu, Black Forest cake and custard-filled cupcakes and pastries. The Taiwanese baking style isn't so much about creating exotic dishes as it is about refining the ingredients in dishes, Kung said.
"People tell us that it produces a real smooth, comfortable aftertaste," said Kung, who does sales and marketing for the company while Chang serves as owner and baker. "You don't just get a sugar rush to your tongue."
The duo has been in the Lawrence area for about 10 years after growing up in Taiwan. Chang received formal baking training in Taiwan, and the pair thought the unique baking style would help it standout in the Lawrence market.
The business currently has a partnership with the Oriental Bistro & Grill at 1511 W. 23rd Street. The restaurant carries all of the bakery's items.