Benson’s Wild Animal Park closed in 1987, but Hudson natives Cory Boutin and Emily Erickson are giving the zoo and amusement park’s memories new life. The couple opened Benson’s Bakery & Café last month, and since then, support has been pouring in from across the community.
“Hudson loves Benson’s,” Boutin said about the animal park.
It seems the sentiment applies to the new café as well.
“The community has really held on to what we’re doing and supports us,” Erickson said. “We had our first customer a half hour after we turned the light on, and it’s been busy since that moment. And it’s everything, not just the bakery, not just the food, not just the coffee.”
Customers can walk up to the counter to order from the chalkboard menu that stretches across the wall. The breakfast menu features omelets (like the egg, tomato, basil and feta omelet), organic yogurt, steel-cut oats and breakfast sandwiches to choose from.
For lunch, homemade soups are made daily and available to order from the specials board. There are comfort classics and light sandwiches too, like tuna salad, grilled cheese, a sandwich with hummus, sprouts and cucumber, a toasted mozzarella with basil and tomato sandwich and options to customize ingredients. Sandwiches come with a pickle, mixed green salad or chips and a cookie.
“We sell out of chicken salad almost everyday,” Erickson said.
The chicken salad comes in two varieties, original or Benson’s chicken salad, which is made with celery, grapes and sunflower seeds.
“I come from a culinary background, so we have some classic things but also fun stuff,” she said.
Benson’s park paraphernalia decorates the new eatery. The whole café is nostalgic of Hudson’s past, with decorations, postcards, maps and photographs of the former animal park. There are also carnival-esque details woven into the space, too, like a bright red popcorn machine and claw-footed wooden furniture.
Erickson said she wants to be able to provide catering with picnic baskets in the summertime for when people want to visit Benson Park, where families go to enjoy the space formerly occupied by the zoo and animal park.
Opening a café is a dream come true for Erickson. She went to the Culinary Institute of America to learn how to manage a bakery and café and earned her degree in baking and pastry arts.
“The whole reason I went to school for this was to have a cafe. I love it,” Erickson said. “It’s a big dream, I’ve been chasing this for a while. And Cory, he was the last piece of the whole puzzle.”
Erickson said she loves to make eclairs, but the bacon maple cupcake is her most requested treat. Other sweet treats are available daily in the glass case in front of the counter, including cupcakes, decorated sugar cookies, cakes, cake pops and whoopie pies.
The entrepreneurial couple grew up on the same street in Hudson and went to school together as kids.
They agreed Hudson was in need of a bakery and café, the type of place to enjoy a cup of coffee with access to Wi-Fi. Boutin said he always had to drive into nearby Nashua to sit and work in a coffee shop, because there wasn’t anywhere in Hudson he could do the same.
The eatery sources its bread from Great Harvest in Nashua, and the coffee comes from Good Vibes Coffee Roasters in North Conway.
As seen in the March 6, 2014 issue of the Hippo.