Amelies French Bakery celebrated its new downtown Rock Hill location with a grand opening event on Saturday.
The restaurant which has been open since early December at the corner of Caldwell and Main streets enjoyed a steady crowd on Saturday as customers found comfy seats, sipped coffee and devoured bowls of Amelies signature soup: spinach, asparagus and leek.
Amelies three owners, Bill Lamb, Brenda Ische and Lynn St. Laurent, started their first bakery in Charlottes NoDa arts district about six years ago. The neighborhoods gets its name because of the homes and various businesses in and around North Davidson Street. Three years later, Amelies opened an uptown Charlotte location.
In Rock Hill, we saw something that, to us, felt a little bit like NoDa, said Lexi St. Laurent, community manager for Amelies.
The downtown area which the city of Rock Hill markets as Old Town has a similar energy to the Charlotte arts district, she said. The old Citizens Corner building where Amelies opened in Rock Hill seemed like the perfect spot for a new bakery to the owners.
The building was once home to the Citizens Bank on Main Street. The bank vault now houses a walk-in refrigerator. After a full-scale renovation, Citizens Corner restaurant opened about six years ago offering Southern cuisine. It closed last year.
When Amelies owners started talking about a new bakery, they werent sure about opening a third location so close to their Charlotte spots, St. Laurent said. The owners are also looking to open a new location in Atlanta.
Amelies does not want to become a chain, she said, but there was just something about what (downtown Rock Hill) was doing.
Support from city officials to revitalize downtown, the growing arts community around Main Street and the proximity of Winthrop University all seemed to be a good fit for Amelies, the owners said.
Co-owner Ische designed the Rock Hill locations interior. She also designed Amelies two Charlotte locations.
Her goal, she said, was to create a space where a customer will have all of their senses delighted.
She hand-crafted all of the bakerys light fixtures. The interior color scheme is blue because, as Ische says, in color psychology, blue is a very soothing color.
Isches needlework art, eclectic chandelier-like fixtures and variety of mismatched furniture give Amelies space an original look, she said.
She was inspired to make the bakery feel like home, she said, because thats where people are most comfortable. At home, Ische said, nothing matches...you might have your grandmothers chair with your aunts table.
At Amelies, the tables and chairs arent wholesale furniture bought from a restaurant equipment distributor. Ische found a variety of pieces some of it heavily used and restored them in her workshop.
The bakerys walls are full of artwork, but not cluttered. Ische intends to regularly change pieces to give customers new items to look at.
Isches designs were just as appealing as her chai tea latte and twice-stuffed raspberry croissant, for Angela Cranford, one of Amelies customers.
I love the atmosphere and the light fixtures, Cranford, 46, said. The decor is just great ... Ill be coming back.
Cranford, who works in Charlotte and lives in Rock Hill, said Amelies arrival is a step in the right direction for the citys downtown. Downtown needs more restaurant options that have a unique flair to get more foot traffic, Cranford said.
Amelies opening marks the second Charlotte-based sit-down bakery option now available in Rock Hill. Novas Bakery which has three locations in Charlotte opened on Cherry Road, near the Winthrop University athletic complex in September.
Since then, Novas has seen good business, says general manager Tanja Novakovic.
While Amelies and Novas are very different, she said, theyve been neighbors in Charlotte for a few years and theres nothing wrong with a little competition in Rock Hill.
Novas most popular items, she said, have been its glorious morning muffins which are carrot cake muffins with apples, raisins and pecans; its savory pastry with feta cheese, spinach and red pepper; and its pecan sticky buns. The bakery also offers coffee and a range of fresh-baked breads, home-made soups and some breakfast sandwiches.
Being close to Winthrop has helped Novas, which caters to a crowd that enjoys sitting down with coffee and pastries to study, read or socialize, said Rock Hill location manager Tori Jacobitz.
Like Amelies, Novas is also located in a former bank building. Novas old bank vault has been transformed into a sitting area with couches and lamps. Novas also has a drive-thru window.
The bakery has hosted book club meetings, local author book signings and hopes to introduce open-mic nights soon, Jacobitz said.
Amelies presence in Rock Hill can only help both bakeries thrive, she said.
Many local customers arent accustomed to visiting sit-down bakeries or independently-owned coffee shops, she said, so having more than one option will help build a culture to support both types of businesses.
Jacobitz has found that Novas attracts many retirees who moved to the South after living most of their lives elsewhere. Up north, she said, small pastry and coffee shops with couches and unique decor seem to be on every corner.
Many of her customers, she said, love the South but (places like Amelies and Novas) are the thing that theyve kept saying theyre missing.
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068
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