As all of the leaves around the Valley begin to turn into rusty ambers and golden yellows, a “New Leaf” has turned over. I promise you will fall, and fall hard, for the sweet aromas, flaky pastries, crumbling cookies, and mesmerizing desserts of New Leaf Pastry Kitchen. Let your senses do the decision-making!
New Leaf owners Shaun Richard and Amy Lemmons had always dreamed of owning their own bakery, so it seemed like a perfect fit when the location at the Hardesty-Higgins House became available. Previously the Pastry Chef at the Joshua Wilton House, Shaun Richard has had a plethora of experience in the world of baking. Before the couple moved to Harrisonburg, Virginia in 2006, Shaun, who began baking in 1980, had worked at many prestigious hotels and restaurants, including the Ritz Carlton, Woodlands Inn in Charleston, SC and La Colline on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
And now New Leaf has opened. In deciding on a name for their pastry shop, the couple went back and forth with ideas and couldn’t agree on one. Then one day, Amy used the phrase, “turning over a new leaf” in a conversation and it seemed to stick with Shaun. “How appropriate, to signify a new chapter in our life together,” Amy said to me. Amy likes leaves as a motif in general, but she is especially fond of the leaf used in their logo. The Gingko leaf, which symbolizes longevity and health, represents all that they wish for their business and family. The four leaves in their logo are representative of their four family members – Shaun and Amy, along with their two daughters.
New Leaf uses local products like Polyface Farm eggs for their frittatas and pastry doughs, as well as fruits and various other items from the Harrisonburg Farmers Market and Shenandoah Valley. “I have noticed since moving to the Valley that I am getting the best produce to work with and this becomes an inspiration,” Shaun explained. New Leaf is also proudly brewing coffee from Grains of Sense, a Staunton roasting company run by Tom and Kathryn Hayman.
Sean explained to me that his “Euro-Centric” style has been born out of working with French, Italian, German, and Swiss pastry chefs over the years. The patisserie French-style allows Shaun to show his strengths. “We appreciate that the Harrisonburg dining scene is growing and that there is a strong culture of baking,” shared the couple. They have been encouraged by the positive support of the community and, as they continue to grow, they plan on offering free wi-fi, several different catering services, birthday cakes, and holiday specials.
My favorite part of walking into New Leaf Pastry Shop is the open kitchen concept. “I let him bake,” Amy smiled as she told me. Their idea for the open kitchen came out of Amy’s personal experience with customer relations and her appreciation for watching Shaun bake. “When I met him, I never went into the back of the house to see what he was doing,” she recounts. “‘Outsiders’ were not allowed in the back in most places. When I was able to go in the back of the kitchen and see him in action at the Woodlands Inn, I was convinced that other people would be just as intrigued by what he does as I am.” And thus the open kitchen was born.
The pastry shop has a craftsman feel, a type of “pastry studio” if you will, and is a place where people can watch how these beautiful confections are made – exactly the kind of atmosphere Shaun and Amy were hoping to create.
I, too, was fascinated while watching him perform and perfect his craft. “Pastry is a different discipline,” Shaun explained to me. “Cooking is an art and baking is a science. Every ingredient is a variable and it must be precise and organized.” Shaun is at work every day starting at 6:00 in the morning to begin baking the items for that day, including a rotation of savory items, a different bread each day, and an assortment of breakfast pastries and dessert items.
I have now found that when sitting upstairs in the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance office, it is almost impossible to resist the smells surfacing from the shop below. All too often, I give in to my senses. And I highly recommend you do, too.
Check out New Leaf Pastry Shop online and the New Leaf t-shirts on sale in the shop. The front of the shirt sports their logo and the back reads, “There is a new leaf in town.”
Kari Owens is the HDR Promotions Intern for Summer and Fall 2012. She is a senior Media Arts & Design major and Creative Writing minor at James Madison University.