The first time I ran away from home, I didn't pack a suitcase. I didn't even take my blankie. I just emptied my piggy bank and headed toward Devore's Bakery. I was jonesing for a giant chocolate chip cookie and my brother, who was supposed to be watching me, was too busy hanging his Farrah Fawcett posters and listening to the Beach Boys to notice I was gone. I got as far as Rugby Park off of South Pine Creek Road before my mother found me.
Devore's was opened at the corner of Post Road and Beaumont Street in 1930 by Celia and Michael Devore. I've heard stories from older generations who can remember watching the doughnuts - which sold for five cents - being made in the window. I don't ever remember seeing a doughnut machine, but I do remember when the bakery was just a small hole in the wall, before it was bought in 1997 and expanded.
For my family, a big treat was getting a dozen doughnuts after Sunday Mass. They were tucked into a white box and tied up with red and white string. The yeasty, sugary smell would fill up the car and the big question was: would I pick a glazed or a powdered?
"I never met a doughnut that I didn't like; however, I never met a doughnut as great as Devore's doughnuts," said Meredith Santarcangelo, now a Milford resident. "I remember walking into Devore's and smelling the yummy doughnuts and walking out and smelling like a doughnut. After moving to Vermont in 1987, one gorgeous Sunday a bunch of my parents' friends took a road trip and brought Devore's doughnuts. We dined on doughnuts and champagne overlooking a great view. Life was good."
In the doughnut department, Devore's didn't have a huge selection to choose from. They had jelly-filled, powdered cake or raised, glazed, cinnamon sugar cake or raised and crullers.
"Do I ever miss their raised cinnamon sugar doughnuts! And the giant chocolate chip cookies," said Tom Giacchi. "And the fresh bread, so very good. I was always fascinated by the slicing machine. To this day, the smell of a bakery brightens my mood."
For me, I gravitated toward the cinnamon cake doughnuts (followed closely by the powdered crullers.) For Melissa Stewart, now a North Carolina resident, jelly doughnuts were her favorite. "Devore's put the most jelly in any doughnut that I have ever eaten," she said. "My dad always came home with a big white box filled with them, hide them, and then secretly give them to us because my mom was anti-sugar back then. That made them all the more tasty."
Dolores Abbott recalled a tradition that many Fairfielders can relate to. "Way back in the late '60s, the Memorial Day Parade started down around Devore's Bakery. I can remember standing in the road next to it in my Girl Scout uniform with my troop and smelling the doughnuts. My father was in the Knights of Columbus, and they were there, too, lined up with their swords and ostrich plume hats, and somehow I was given a jelly doughnut." Back then, up until the '90s, Devore's was the only place on the Post Road to get a cup of coffee and a buttered hard roll before the parade began.
For many of the town's teenagers, Devore's was their first employer. "My first job, sixth grade," said John Chernes. "I can't remember the name of the manager, but she knew me from coming in on Sundays with my grandfather. He always bought me their huge chocolate chip cookies. She hired me to sweep at closing and to wash the windows. I was paid in day-old doughnuts, bread and pastry. Heaven!"
Yes, there's those chocolate chip cookies again. If you never had the pleasure of having a Devore's chocolate chip cookie, allow me to describe them to you. First, they were huge, about the size of a salad plate. They were pale white, cracked on the top and dotted throughout with chocolate chips. These were not chewy cookies; they were big, crumbly cookies that were sweet and salty and worth every calorie.
Not to sound too dramatic, but I'll never forget the day Devore's closed. I was nine months pregnant and there were two things that I craved: grapefruit and Devore's doughnuts. On a Sunday morning, my husband drove me there and I waddled up to the front door to see a sign that said they would be closing. In a fit of hormonal panic, I contemplated buying as many doughnuts as possible and freezing them. But my rational side took over and I just bought a dozen, along with a single chocolate chip cookie.
Since closing, Devore's has continued to make doughnuts wholesale for local gas stations. Every now and then I'd visit the Mobil on the corner of South Pine Creek Road and get a doughnut, but it just wasn't the same.
So imagine my surprise when, just a few nights ago, I was reminiscing about Devore's with my parents. "Oh, they're open again," my mother said.
What? Repeat that please.
My mother said that, after having their weekly Wednesday night dinner at the Ninth Hole restaurant, they noticed that the corner store said something about Devore's doughnuts.
"Is it the same?" I asked.
Yes, my mother said, the same, just much smaller.
"Did they have the big chocolate chip cookies?" My heart was racing.
Yes, she said, they did.
The next morning I told my son we were going on an adventure and we drove off to find this mythical bakery. There, on the corner of Capitol Avenue and Brooklawn Avenue (on the Fairfield/Bridgeport line) is the tiny storefront with the sign that says, "The Original Devore Doughnut Shop."
Yes, it's true, folks. Devore's is back in town.
This time it's smaller—a lot smaller. They aren't selling any cakes and it's "BYOB"—in other words, no coffee, no juice. But what you can get are super fresh doughnuts, pastries, pies, cookies, cupcakes and bread.
While my son munched on a vanilla-frosted doughnut, I spoke with the owner, Mike Oracheff. "We opened on St. Patrick's Day," he said. There wasn't any grand opening, and no advertising so far. "I thought I'd do a little retail front in addition to the wholesale business," he said. "We're still trying to work everything out."
There are a few tables inside and soon, when the weather picks up, Oracheff plans on putting in an outdoor patio. He put up a small bike rack for the local kids who ride there for an afterschool treat. Their hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. The big cookies are $1.85. Doughnuts are $1 each or $7.99 a dozen. I suggest you buy both. You'll thank me later.