Alice Bakery is closing its doors in Ambler after five years at the corner of Butler Avenue and North Ridge Avenue. The cafe and pastry shop opened in June 2015 replacing Cafe Maida, which moved locations and eventually closed.
We recently spoke with owner and chef Dennis Darr who reminisced about the opening weekend in 2015. “We opened on the weekend of Ambler Music Fest, which was both a good and bad idea,” said Darr. “Luckily my staff was able to handle the crowds and we were well received. Usually, you try to open a restaurant slowly, but we jumped right into it.”
Darr opened the original Alice Bakery in North Wales in 2010 and that location remains open. When COVID-19 hit, Darr had to adjust his business model like everyone else. “The North Wales location is larger allowing our staff to better socially distance and there is an adjacent to a parking lot, which allowed me to offer curbside service,” shared Darr. “Curbside service would have been more difficult in downtown Ambler.”
Darr decided to open a second location in Ambler after a positive experience participating in the farmers market. “While I was interested in Ambler, the only spot I was interested in was the one that eventually became our home,” offered Darr. “We were lucky to have that spot, but now that we are an established brand in the community I would be willing to consider a new location.”
Darr is considering reopening a second location in Ambler or in another community. He is also exploring opening a restaurant with a different concept and has had discussions about a location just outside Ambler.
A few months into the pandemic, Darr did attempt to reopen the Ambler location but was unable to adequately staff it. “Staffing is an issue with all restaurants right now,” said Darr. “Everyone is having staffing issues and I found that I would need to train new people and couldn’t do that while keeping the North Wales location going.”
What happened between Darr and the owner of the building in Ambler was speculated on social media (there is a “for rent” sign in the window). Darr said he paid his rent throughout the pandemic but sometimes needed to pay in installments throughout the month. In more recent months, he felt that the landlord was less willing to work with him to keep Alice viable for when it is possible to reopen. He had an option to end the lease with three months’ notice and decided that was best.
Darr offered praise for his Ambler customers, “Our Ambler customers have been really great and they continue to support us in North Wales, which has been tremendous.”
Darr holds the lease through the end of November and hopes to open a couple of days to celebrate his Ambler customers. Stay tuned.