33 Years on Main Street in downtown Smithfield
In 1983, Carolyn Burke was approached by Colonial Williamsburg about opening a bakery in Merchant’s Square. There was something about the space she was shown that just didn’t feel right to her. Fortunately for the town of Smithfield, a realtor took a chance and showed her a historic building in the heart of the town’s Main Street, and Carolyn fell in love. She opened Smithfield Gourmet Bakery in April of that year.
Since then, Carolyn, born in Tennessee and raised in Virginia, and her husband, Donnie have called Smithfield home. Though she enjoys gardening, traveling and caring for their three German Shepherds, and dreams of a trip to Israel someday, Carolyn stays busy “24/7” running the award-winning restaurant and bakery.
“It’s a lot of hard work. Long days. But I have wonderful employees and I’ve met great folks in this town. I cannot imagine doing anything else. I am thankful for every customer who walks through the door.”
Customers keep Carolyn going through the long days. “When I first opened up, there was a very sweet older couple who came in almost every day – all the way from Williamsburg. They gave me encouragement when I needed it most in those early days. I almost believe they were my guardian angels! Meeting all the wonderful people I would have never have met if I had not opened in Smithfield make the long hours worth every minute.”
The Historic Building
The gorgeous brick façade building at 218 Main Street with its quaint outdoor seating out also plays a part in the restaurant/bakery’s appeal. Built in the early 1800s by local businessman Jack Blair, it’s has served many purposes including as a storehouse and pharmacy.
Carolyn takes great pride in the restoration she’s done to preserve the building’s original pine floors, windows and exposed brick walls. A much-needed dinner and event space was added in 2006 on the third floor. She also expanded to her space to include 220 Main Street in 2011, and added additional outdoor seating along historic Hayden’s Lane in 2015.
As lovely as the building is though, it’s the food that’s created in its kitchens that has established the restaurant/bakery as a favorite among locals and tourists alike. The Smithfield Gourmet Bakery & Café specializes in quality, fresh, local produce and dishes skillfully prepared by highly-trained chefs and bakers. Carolyn describes the cuisine as “American with a touch of Southern and French.” You can’t beat that for a great culinary combination.
The Smithfield Gourmet Bakery & Café Family
The restaurant’s visionary Chef Dan Kovelkoski is a native New Yorker who trained at a restaurant owned by a professor at the Culinary Institute of America. Sous chef Lindsey McKinley and assistant Troy Baily serve alongside Chef Dan and are both graduates of the Culinary Institute of Virginia. Customer favorites include “Pork & Pinot,” and the Turkey and avocado focaccia.
Though Carolyn is quick to point out that “we’re much more than a bakery,” Baker Rob Stubbs’ made-from-scratch, old-world style baked goods (such as Danish, sweet doughs, breads and rolls) bring in customers from all over the region.
The wait staff at Smithfield Gourmet Bakery include Stefani Monroe, Diane, Emma, Lori, and Becka. Carolyn says her front of house servers are greatly appreciated, “They all do a great job and offer exceptional customer service day in and day out.”
Stop on by!
Whether it’s for lunch, dinner (Friday & Saturday 5-8 p.m.) or for Sunday Brunch, Smithfield Gourmet Bakery & Café is a place where you will quickly become a regular – or as Carolyn puts it “part of the Bakery family. We just want our patrons to be happy, enjoy our food and feel at home.”
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
Working 24/7 running a small business has not stopped Carolyn from serving as the Vice President on the Board of Directors for the “Voices for Kids CASA Program of Southeast Virginia.” She is passionate about the work of this program, begun in Isle of Wight County in 2004 by Judge William Moore and a small group of volunteers and now serving children in Smithfield, Franklin, Suffolk and Southhampton County. Its mission is to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy for abused and neglected children so that they can thrive in safe, permanent homes. A CASA volunteer is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of a child in court, becoming the voice of that child. Most of the children are victims of abuse and neglect, caught up in the judicial and social services systems through no fault of their own.
Currently, more than 60% of the children in foster care and family court system do not have a CASA volunteer to represent their best interests.
Carolyn urges you to consider becoming involved as a CASA volunteer or in other ways. Information on this critical program can be found athttp://www.vfkcasa.org/.
Carolyn’s dream vacation to Israel may have to wait a bit, but in the meantime she lives a busy life, filled with good people, great food and a family that keeps growing – and there’s always room for you too!
218 Main Street in downtown Smithfield, Virginia
Open 7 days a week
Facebook: Smithfield Gourmet Bakery and Cafe
Full-service catering is available for weddings and other special events, lunches and business meetings.
Special event space is available on the third floor with original windows overlooking historic Main Street.