When we stopped into on a sunny mid-morning last week, the early hour rush was dying down, and Jessica Newman plunked into a chair for a well deserved rest.
Her day started at 6 am, and she’d spent the morning greeting the customers who’d come in for a variety of baked goods, and chocolates.
Her brother Bernard’s day, however, had begun at 11 pm the previous evening. As the master baker, Bernard bakes from 11 pm until 5 am. Bernard is the sole person in charge of producing, day after day, the bakery’s wide array of kosher bread and pastries.
That day’s specialty was hamentaschen: in apple, cherry, apricot and the traditional poppy seed, baked for Purim. Triangle shaped, these delicious cookies resemble the shape of the bad guy’s hat in the story that beget the festive holiday, in spirit not unlike Halloween, or Mardi Gras.
Also for sale were hot cross buns, baked for Ash Wednesday and Lent.
Bernard and Jessica Newman own Newman’s Bakery, a Swampscott landmark since 1966, when their parents, Joe and Bertha Newman, set up shop.
Jessica recalls her father “worked sometimes 18-20 hours a day, but he never complained. He loved it, loved the work and felt sorry for people who didn’t love their jobs.”
Of the four Newman children, Bernard is the one who shares his father’s passion for baking. He began by helping out his father, and is the one responsible for introducing the bagels.
The chocolates are Jessica’s specialty. She brought chocolates to Newman's later in life, after a career working in stereo manufacturing and sales. For 10 years she travelled around the world to different shows. She “met so many wonderful people” that to this day she has friends from all over that she could drop in on.
From there, she went to work for her good friend, Georgette Boucai, who owns the chocolate store Truffles in the Prudential Center in Boston, and was also the wife of her first boss. Jessica worked in her store, “learned at her feet” about all things chocolate. She learned “to listen to the customers” and about “levels of quality in chocolate.”
In her position as purveyor for Newman's, Jessica attends chocolate shows. There chocolatiers and traders from Europe and America showcase their goods, and you “eat yourself into oblivion.” In choosing the chocolate, she looks for taste, texture and “smoothness.” She says that her customers prefer high quality chocolate, with quality ingredients, and so that’s what she buys.
For sale is a wide variety of treats: dipped fruit from Truffles in Boston; Harbor Sweets chocolates; a variety of chocolate truffles made to look like Fabergé eggs; turtles in almond, cashew and pecan; chocolate graham crackers; peppermint patties; non-pareils; butter cream, vanilla cream, raspberry cream.
When Jessica brought her chocolates to what heretofore had been her brother’s sole domain, she admits there was an adjustment period. She came in “wanting to change everything.” Their relationship is close, however, and now he appreciates her improvements to the store.
Like her father before her, Jessica Newman loves her job. “We have wonderful customers, and I enjoy my time here.”
Despite the aphorism that man cannot live by bread alone, we certainly can’t live without bread. And we prefer not to live without chocolate.
Newman’s is located at 252 Humphrey Street, and is open Tuesday thru Sunday, 6 am to 5 pm.