VENTNOR – A new bakery and café that  opened recently on Ventnor Avenue near the Margate border is offering small batches of love to its customers and helping to revitalize the surrounding area. No. 7311, which opened on May 6, features fresh baked pastries, scones, cookies and even dog biscuits made with whole grains, natural ingredients and lots of love.

“The premise here is small batch baking using heirloom whole grain flours milled fresh and as locally as possible,” head baker Kim Richmond said. “We use the purest, most natural and organic ingredients and as little sugar as possible.”

“Pastries are made with locally sourced honey, sprouted wheat, buckwheat, barley flour, and even the dog biscuits are made from spelt,” said Dustin Norton, who also bakes at the shop.

Richmond has been working for shop owner Cookie Till of Steve & Cookies by the Bay for the past seven years. She started as a waitress when Till had the Crab Pot, which was directly across from Steve & Cookies current location on Amherst Avenue.

“I first worked the front of the house, then started cooking and baking. When Cookie moved to the current location, I started baking her famous peanut butter and blueberry and Key lime pies,” Richmond said.

Norton came to the US by way of Zimbabwe, Africa in November 2013, because his wife, who has family in Atlantic City, was pregnant and wanted to be closer to her family.

“I always cooked and baked at home, and when I first came here, I worked for Formica Bakery. I met Cookie when I worked at the Knife and Fork. She told me about Kim and Cookie’s idea for the bakery, and I told her I did some baking, and by 8:30 the next day, Cookie called me to talk,” he said.

Kim and Cookie put him through several trials to determine if his baking skills were up to Till’s high standards, and it was a match made in heaven, he said.

“We are baking live throughout the day until we sell out so our customers have the freshest experience possible. It’s the European concept of baking till you sell out,” Norton said.

The team starts baking at 5 a.m., and the store opens at 7 a.m. They bake small batches of their offerings throughout the day.

“We are supposed to close at 2 p.m., but if people are still here, we will stay open later,” Richmond said.

The venture is a year-round operation, and if it does well this summer, Till would consider staying open for desserts at night, Richmond said.

Although No. 7311 – the store’s address – has been open only a week or so, Richmond and Norton are figuring out peak times, and will adjust the baking schedule so there are always five to seven freshly baked items available.

The café features two specialty coffees, imported from Costa Rica, Kenya, or Ethiopia and roasted stateside within days of serving.

“It’s all organically and sustainably grown,” Norton said.

One company, George Howell Company of Boston, ships small batches to only four states – Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Delaware, Norton said, and another roaster in Galloway Township roasts the shop’s darker roasted beans.

The group is also considering adding new items and offering weekly featured items.

“We’re working now to perfect a whole wheat croissant recipe,” Richmond said.

The store offers gluten-free and vegan options, too, she said.

Why Ventnor, we asked?

“We loved this corner lot and thought this could become and bustling hub for the city,” Richmond said.

Till purchased the property last year, got planning board approval and the variance needed to accommodate the exhaust system, and set out to completely remodel the building from top to bottom.

There’s a three-bedroom apartment on the second floor just waiting for a discerning tenant, Richmond said.

Their neighbors include Hannah G’s breakfast and lunch eatery, Uncle Gino’s Pizza, Mrs. B’s Boutique, and Florida Cold Cuts. The Greens & Grains juice bar and eatery was slated to open Friday just two doors down. And there’s a restaurant location right next door – the former Salt Ayre – just waiting for an entrepreneur to add another great eatery in the south end of Ventnor.

“This is a great town, and this is just what we need in this part of town,” real estate investor Pete Caldes of Sewell said.

He owns several properties in Ventnor and said he would make sure his tenants know about the great eateries on the avenue.

“As an investor, I constantly watch for progress. It’s great to have little hubs of activity like this. Hopefully, these businesses will thrive in the off season and take the town to the next level,” he said.

No. 7311 is located at 7311 Ventnor Avenue, just a block from the Margate border. For more information, call 609-246-7097.

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