Owners: Abdul and Meriyem Rhaddaoui
Saralena’s Pastry opened its doors on Saturday to a warm welcome in the square. For Danvers owners Abdul and Meriyem Rhaddaoui, it was like coming home.
“Danvers is a nice community of neighbors and friends who are very supportive, very nice people here,” said Abdul Rhaddaoui, who is raising six daughters here.
Rhaddaoui received a warm welcome from selectmen as well earlier this month when they approved a Common Victualler’s License for the bakery.
Selectman William Clark was cheered to hear the shop would be opening soon, filling a void left downtown after Martha’s Bread Basket and Blackberry Bakery both closed within the past few years. Sweet Heart Bake Shop — where is now — was a short-lived placeholder.
Clark joked he was in “withdrawal.”
“It’s great to have a new business in that area. I wish you luck,” Selectman Michael Powers told Rhaddaoui.
The shop has been under construction for the better part of the past year-and-a-half, as Rhaddaoui has been splitting his time between the hands-on construction and his limousine business of six years, Boston First Limo, also based in Danvers.
Unfortunately, plans to open were way-layed early last year while Rhaddaoui was away in New York.
“We should have opened over a year ago, but we got broken into. There was a lot of damage, broken windows and pipes, and a lot of equipment stolen,” he explained. Rhaddaoui had no recourse other than to take the loss, move on and continue building.
“It was a big loss, but I thought, ‘I can make it.’ It’s just money; it comes and goes,” he said.
From the tiled flooring to the elegant mouldings and trim, Rhaddaoui has paid special attention to detail his surroundings, where he is offering high-end Khave gourmet coffees and homemade breads and pastries.
“I built this shop myself, with my own two hands. I even built the tables,” he said. “I studied engineering in France.”
One might wonder how an engineer from France decides to become a limo service owner turned baker in America. Rhaddaoui explained: “When I moved to the United States, I couldn’t use my engineering (degree) here. I started off working in kitchens and then opened my own limousine company.
“I decided to go to culinary school after my wife started doing some baking for the teachers and friends at the kids’ school. She was filling small orders of pastries, and I thought this is something we could do together. One year and nine months later, here we are!” said Rhaddaoui.
Rhaddaoui and his wife, Meriyem, grew up in homes filled with the smells of fresh baked breads and treats in Morocco and France. As a child, Rhaddaoui’s mother would make her own yeast in double portions, so she could set aside some for the next day.
“There was always bread baking and home-baked goods in the house. We never bought anything at the store — it’s just the way of life where I am from,” Rhaddaoui said. He wants to bring that “way of life” here.
Saralena’s is named for two of the Rhaddaoui’s children, Sara and Lena. The bakery is located on Maple Street in the former location of Martha’s Bread Basket, between and , and offers a variety of baked goods from tarts and lobster tails to cheesecake, muffins and cannoli.
Rhaddaoui has begun establishing connections to his new neighbors by offering, for instance, freshly baked sandwich buns to Supreme Roast Beef. The buns will also be sold by the package, along with fresh whole grain loaves, inside the shop.
“We use only fresh, organic ingredients — no chemicals. I even make my own yeast, just like my mother did, and let the bread rise for 16 hours,” he said.
Besides breads and pastries, there are lunch offerings, as well, with new items being added to the menu daily.
“We have Sicilian Pizza with my own sauce recipe, and stuffed whole wheat rolls filled with meats and cheeses,” said Rhaddaoui. “I base my business on quality. I want people to have something good right here, that before they might only be able to find in Boston.”
The new pastry shop, located at 16 Maple St., is open Monday to Friday, 5 a.m. - 7 p.m., Saturday, 6 a.m. - 3 p.m., and Sunday, 6 a.m. - 1 p.m. Call 978-777-8808.