Whether it’s thanks to the sunlight seeping through the skylight, the endless display of cookies and cupcakes or the freshly baked bread, Bowdoin students and the greater Brunswick community gravitate toward Wild Oats Bakery & Cafe, a long-time Brunswick staple. After 28 years at the Tontine Mall in downtown Brunswick, Wild Oats will move to Brunswick Landing at the end of next year.
David and Becky Shepherd, the owners of Wild Oats, have been planning the move for years with the goal of expanding the business in ways that are not possible at the Tontine Mall.
“We’ve outgrown it,” Becky Shepherd said. “Small things like we have no heating or cooling in our kitchen and our whole downstairs. A lot of those practical things I’m really excited about. I’m also excited to be able to produce more of the products that we want to.”
According to the Wild Oats Facebook page, “the new location will have loads more parking, additional indoor and outdoor seating and more retail and production space,” addressing several frequent customer complaints. “Imagine never having to wade through a sea of people to get your soup, not having to explain to a stranger where to pay, not being forced to eat with a family you’ve never met, and finding a parking spot on your very first try!”
While parking will be more convenient, most Bowdoin students do not have cars and may have difficulty getting to the new location. Shepherd emphasizes that, though the trip may take longer, ensuring that Bowdoin students would still have easy access was one of the priorities in selecting a location.
“I can be honest with you—one of our biggest concerns was the Bowdoin students,” she said. “We don’t want to lose that community, and we don’t want to lose that walkability, but from the Bowdoin perspective, it’s definitely going to be bikeable.”
Though Shepherd is steadfast in her belief that the move will not pose much of a challenge for Bowdoin students, the commute to Wild Oats may be too lengthy for some.
“If they’re two miles away, I don’t think I’ll ever go. I think there are other places to get coffee nearby, and the dining halls are closer,” said Cirque Gammelin ’20.
While the goal was not to create distance between Wild Oats and Bowdoin, it proved nearly impossible to find a place downtown that had everything the business needed.
“We’ve been looking for about a year. We scoured downtown to try to find a location because initially, I planted my feet and said, ‘We’re not moving out of downtown,’” Shepherd said. “There was just no place that offered us a chance to expand and a chance to have unlimited parking.”
Shepherd hopes that this move benefits not only the business, but Brunswick residents as a whole.
“I think that we created a community, and we made [a community in] the Tontine and the downtown, and the downtown is now thriving,” she said. “[Brunswick Landing is] essentially an industrial park right now … I think that we will be able to create some community.”
With the move, Wild Oats is committed to maintaining its fundamental values: comfort and community. Despite a newer, larger location, Shepherd hopes that Wild Oats will retain the charm that people are often drawn to.
“For me, it’s all about the culture and the community that we’ve created that makes the bakery what it is. I want to conduct business in that same culture of people feeling like they’re being nurtured,” Shepherd said. “That’s something that I want to bring forth in our new space.”