By Scott E. Kinney, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, March 17, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News.]
[Atlantic News Photo by Scott E. Kinney]
HAMPTON -- When Me & Ollie's opened on High Street last Thursday it was not just the fourth in a line of cafés bearing the name to be opened along the Seacoast. For owner Roger Elkis it was a homecoming of sorts.
Elkis has been a resident of North Hampton for the last seven years.
"I've kept an eye on the area for a while," said Elkis. "I love the group of communities in this area."
It is those same communities that Elkis fell in love with while visiting from Cincinnati, Ohio. Elkis related a story about attending a York, Maine, basketball game. What struck him most was the people who hung around after the game to talk.
"I found Mayberry," he said. "I knew immediately that I had to move here and I pulled up very deep roots to do it."
Now Elkis is trying to create that community sense in his cafés.
For those unfamiliar with Me & Ollie's, what one encounters upon entering the little shop is a warm, friendly atmosphere, large overstuffed chairs and a host of fresh baked breads, pastries, a variety of coffees and sandwiches served up on the aforementioned breads.
It is, after all, the bread that has lead Elkis to where he is today.
"We started out as a bakery," he said. "That's where my roots are. I've been baking bread for 20 years."
And its clear the bakery has stayed true to those roots. Me & Ollie's has earned New Hampshire Magazine's "Best Baked Breads" five years running.
The bread, in fact, tells a story indicative of Elkis' vision for his cafés; quality combined with great relationships.
The photos along the back wall of the Hampton shop illustrate the bread's meager beginnings as wheat. Among them is a picture of "Montana Bob," the farmer who provides the high-protein, organic wheat that will become Elkis' flour. The wheat seeds are milled at the bakery's Portsmouth location.
"We mill it fresh every day. I don't think there is anyone else in the state who mills their own flour," said Elkis.
That equates to about 750 pounds of wheat seeds, which translates into anywhere from 600 to 1,000 loaves of bread per day.
Whether it's the bakery's fresh baked breads, the fresh brewed coffee or the loose tea that Me & Ollie's sells, one common theme connects them all: they're all organically grown, locally owned and operated, or both.
Victor Allen's organic coffees based in Wisconsin, White Heron Tea out of Portsmouth and soda pop from Squamscott Beverages, bottled in Newfields, are all featured at each Me & Ollie's location.
Starting next week, Elkis will be pairing up with Kent LaPage, better known as "The Little Milkman," who will be home delivering Me & Ollie's breads along with the milk, cheeses, butter, sodas and juices that are his staples.
"I've developed these great relationships over time," said Elkis. "These are the things we get excited about."
Me & Ollie's can be found at 61 High Street, Hampton, location of the former 7-Eleven convenience store, 64 Water Street in Exeter, and in two locations in Portsmouth; 10 Pleasant Street and 775 Lafayette Road, where the bakery is located.