ASHLAND The site of the former Alma’s restaurant at the corner of Greenup Avenue and 15th Street didn’t stay vacant long.
An Ashland woman educated at one of the country’s top culinary schools plans to open a cafe and bakery there. When The Mill Cafe and Bakery opens in April, patrons will enjoy confections crafted by proprietor Mikal Miller, including fruit tarts — her specialty — croissants, danishes, muffins and breads.
Miller’s plan for the space includes retail bakery items, a luncheon menu, specialty coffees and custom orders such as wedding cakes.
The quick occupancy of the property — going from a vacant storefront to a trendy, locally owned business, fits in with Ashland’s downtown redevelopment vision, according to Mayor Steve Gilmore.
“The mom and pop stores are coming back strong . . . and we couldn’t be happier to see such a quick turnaround,” Gilmore said.
It fits with the larger focus on bringing people downtown by encouraging multiple new and vibrant businesses, he said. Each new entry into the downtown business fold adds to a domino effect, he said. “We’re getting so many shops downtown that what they have you can’t find anyplace else, and that’s what drives people to downtown.”
Miller’s business plan keeps more money in the local economy because she is seeking local suppliers for her raw materials.
She is a believer in the local foods movement and the higher quality of goods baked with locally-sourced commodities. “My goal is to get as many ingredients from local farmers as possible . . . fresh eggs make a big difference,” she said.
Miller got her baking basics from her grandmother, the late Mary Jo Moore, learning to bake at her side as a little girl, mixing bowl and wooden spoon in hand.
She honed her craft at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, where she graduated with a pastry degree in 2012.
In addition to pastries and breads, Miller plans to offer sandwiches, soups and salads for the quick-lunch crowd. The sandwiches will be made using the bread she makes at the store.
The decor will include lots of greenery and Miller anticipates partnerships with local artists to hang pieces for sale on her walls.
The main visual feast will be the baked goods themselves, however. “People one hundred percent eat with their eyes first. In pastry and baking it’s important that people see that beautiful fruit tart,” she said.
There is enough space for hosting parties and meetings, and possibly culinary lessons. “I want it to be something unique to Ashland and unique to me,” she said. “I hope it will be a place where people will congregate.”
The business will require three to five workers, maybe more if it grows. Hours have not been set but Miller anticipates opening around 7 a.m. each day so patrons on their way to work can stop in for coffee and pastries.
“It goes hand in hand with other new developments downtown like the G.C. Murphy building,” said Ashland in Motion director Whitney Lowe. “Her vision is totally aligned with our comprehensive plan for downtown development.”
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