Every town has them. The small, hard-to-find, quaint, hidden treasures found in the nooks and crannies of old buildings that defy the commercialization of strip malls and national chains. They are part of the charm and character that make Prescott, well… Prescott.
Prescott is blessed with a plethora of nooks-and-cranny shops from the Alley behind Whiskey Row and everywhere in between. Some have been lost to the passage of time, or hidden away behind shuttered doors, and others, such as the St. Michael’s Alley Shops has maintained a unique feel with boutique shops.
Around the corner and slightly down the sidewalk from Montezuma at 207B W. Gurley St. is a space that could be found in any bo-ho chic neighborhood – offering savory and sweet confections without the sterile vibe found in some larger franchises.
Grama’s Bakery has been tucked under the entrance to St. Michael’s Hotel for over 39 years, and for the past 8, owned and operated by Jessica Haggerty.
“I moved to Prescott in 1997,” Jessica said. “My mom moved us to Phoenix from Chicago, and later my boyfriend at the time moved to Prescott and so I followed – pretty simple. And, I love it.”
“I love the energy of downtown, the spirit of the Row and the commradery and support from other shopkeepers and customers.”
Prior to purchasing Grama’s Bakery, Jessica had baked at home and for friends, but has no formal training.
“I actually never worked in the industry,” she adds. “I attended Prescott College studying psychology, and later Yavapai College, dabbling in a variety of studies, eventually ended up working at Matt’s Saloon on Whiskey Row.”
It was during this time that Jessica met Jeri, then-owner of Grama’s. “I went to Jeri and I said ‘I wanna buy your bakery. I have no idea what I’m doing, but it’s what I wanna do.’”
“While working with Matt Brassard at Matt’s, I learned a lot about operating a business, about being consistent, and customer service,” Jessica said. “I took what knowledge I had gleaned from Matt’s and basically mixed it with the limited baking knowledge I had, and started a bakery.”
Along the way, Jessica expanded her knowledge and honed her skills by taste testing on her customers.
“I would literally, go ‘OK, you need to taste these and tell me which one you like better.’ It was a lot of trial and error and I would get frustrated trying new methods or products, but enjoyed the challenge of creating my own recipes that work for me and those that were true to who I am.”
If you’ve never been to Grama’s, don’t expect a long wait for a table – there are none. It’s a pretty streamlined operation located between the side walk and St. Mich’s red brick walls with a grab-and-go concept, all efficiently served with a smile.
As you enter, you’re greeted by a plethora or freshly baked items, cookies, Danish, eclairs, and simply the best Macaroons ever.
“We began with a fairly limited and simple selection, and as time passed and I’ve become more versed and, supported by a knowledgeable staff, we’ve been able to add items that guests request.
“Currently we’re offering our Focaccia Bread Pizza with my Italian Grandma’s DeBartolo’s Sauce, breads, and bagels. … I love the bagels and the pizza,” Jessica enthuses.
“When the Hotel Bistro had to close for a period of time, we would have guests coming down to the bakery, and that’s when we learned we needed to seize the moment so to speak and expand our offerings. That’s when we added the breakfast items, bagels, and cappuccino / coffee bar.
“People are really loyal to their coffee, and their breakfast routine, and once they’ve found their blend and favorite shop, that becomes part of their daily routine,” Jessica said.
“That’s the reason we are open daily, and as I learned, stay consistent with your hours, and menu offerings, even if it seems as simple as a cup of Joe.
“Like many businesses staffing continues to be a challenge, but overall, we’ve been blessed to attract quality people who make it all possible. We also learned a lot during 2020, and as a result have a stronger business, but also a stronger support group so to speak with other businesses that went through the same thing we did.
“It’s nice to know that if I messed up and need a dozen eggs, or someone around the corner needs some cream cheese, they’re there to help.”
Kinda like Grama woulda done.
Barry Barbe owns the El Gato Azul and Torme restaurants in Prescott, and is the energy and insight behind the Prescott Palette. Email: Prespalette@gmail.com.