Arts & Culture

Seven Stars whips up pastries in unique ways

Hope Street bakery combines custom brews, pastries at neighborhood hotspot

By
Contributing Writer
Friday, October 23, 2015

“If a pastry isn’t up to par one day, then we don’t sell it. We want each customer to have the same, great experience every time they walk in here,” said Cara Gibbons, a manager at Seven Stars bakery.

The smell of fresh-baked bread mingled with the aroma of hot coffee lures passersby into Seven Stars Bakery, a Hope Street establishment with a commitment to maintaining a meticulous baking process and supporting the local community.

What started in 2001 as a small, family-owned business has since expanded to encompass three locations with over 100 employees. Despite this growth, the business still places the same importance on the quality of its products as it did when it started, said Jim and Lynn Williams, owners of Seven Stars.

“The philosophy has always been the same,” said Cara Gibbons, an employee of Seven Stars in the management department. “If a pastry isn’t up to par one day, then we don’t sell it. We want each customer to have the same, great experience every time they walk in here.”

The pride Seven Stars has for the quality of its products is evident in the lengths it goes to find the right blends, grains and recipes. When it comes to pastries and breads, for example, Seven Stars produces 200 to 300 pounds of two different kinds of whole wheat and rye annually at the mill it purchased earlier this year.

The bakery uses absolutely no preservatives, which allows fermentation to take place over a longer period of time, Lynn Williams said. In addition, the lack of preservatives prolongs shelf life of the product, slows the staling process and increases flavor, she said. 

Customers appreciate the meticulous baking process and the quality of the products, as pumpkin seed bread, olive bread and cinnamon buns fly off the counter this time of year, Gibbons said. Seven Stars’ offerings are also available at the Brown University Farmer’s Market throughout September and October.

The bakery’s values of community and quality also manifest themselves in its coffee selection and brewing techniques. Mark Hundley, coffee director at Seven Stars and expert on all things coffee-related, said he is in charge of maintenance of machines, coffee quality control and barista training. Hundley attends coffee conferences to further his coffee education and even travels annually to Guatemala to select the farm from which the coffee for the year is harvested. This year, he selected the single-owner Valparaiso Farm.

“Coffee has distinguishable characteristics based on where it’s from and which farm is growing it,” Hundley said. “Visiting the actual farms in Guatemala allows us to get the flavor of the coffee to be exactly what we want, and if we don’t like something, we can give the farm feedback.”

Seven Stars is also committed to supporting other small, local businesses. For example, the bakery collaborates with New Harvest Coffee Roasters, a coffee roaster based in Pawtucket. 

Just like each farm, each roaster can alter the taste of the coffee.

“We have a pretty great dialogue with New Harvest,” Hundley said. The roaster “can change airflow, temperature … to make it taste a certain way or make certain flavors come out.”

“Working together with a local roaster allows us to have a hand in the quality and variety of our coffee,” Lynn Williams said. “We aren’t just mail ordering.”

Aside from these year-round collaborations, Seven Stars hosts community events, including its third annual Oktoberfest Thursday. The German beer festival was held in support of the Hope Street Merchants Association, a union of approximately 25 businesses on Hope Street that share a common interest in highlighting unique aspects of their neighborhood.

Oktoberfest featured food, drinks and a performance from Victor Main, a classical guitarist and former Seven Stars employee. But Oktoberfest was not only meant to be a fundraiser — rather, it was part of a larger conscious effort to forge a sense of community and preserve a sense of individuality on Hope Street. 

The association also hosts similar festivals and fundraisers throughout the year and works to beautify the neighborhood through adding benches and planters along the street. “The Hope Street Merchants Association is a group of amazing entrepreneurs that want to keep Hope Street a unique destination,” Lynn Williams said.

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