Homemade cookies have been Shannon Duncanson’s signature gift since she was a child, but as she grew older, her vision of owning a bakery morphed into adding the signature products of others as well.
Duncanson opened Union Square Provisions, a bakery and specialty food store, on the Oval in Milford on June 6. The shop’s glass bakery cases are filled with muffins (blueberry, morning glory) and scones (ginger, sun-dried tomato) every morning, and cookies and bars (brownies, lemon bars) in the afternoon; she uses her grandmother’s recipe for her O’Henry bars, which are made with oatmeal, chocolate and peanut butter.
Glass jars of Duncanson’s homemade granola top the case. Granola varieties, sold only by the pound, include Mole (raisins, almonds, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, flax seed, cayenne and cocoa powder) and Union Square (dried figs, dried apricots, dried cherries, raisins, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seed, flax seed, pumpkinseed, cinnamon and nutmeg).
“The granolas you buy at the grocery store have a lot of sugar or chocolate in them,” Duncanson said. “I couldn’t find one I wanted to eat for breakfast, so I combined a few recipes and they evolved.” Duncanson opts to enjoy her granola with yogurt or soy milk.
Customers can peruse the 400-square-foot storefront and fill an apple-picking basket from Vermont with specialty food items from Squamscot Beverages, Planet Marshmallow, Laurel Hill Jellies, Michele’s Totally Awesome Popcorn, and Two Sisters Wine Jelly lining the shop’s walls, and order a hot A&E Roastery coffee.
Duncanson also sells organic fair-trade spices, everything from such everyday spices as basil and cinnamon to Szechuan peppercorns and Himalayan pink salt, by the ounce and in bulk.
“It was something important to me, to try to support other local businesses … support the local economy,” Duncanson said. “There are so many great products in the state right now.” Some of the Miracle Acres maple syrup sold at the store was likely even tapped from Duncanson family’s trees, she said.
Three blocks of cheese — baby Swiss, smoked Swiss and Fiddlehead Tomme — from Boggy Meadow Farm line the top shelf of the refrigerated glass display case at the shop and serve as an accompaniment to both the jellies and the homemade crackers (oatmeal rosemary, whole wheat black pepper) sold there. Duncanson is gearing up to add local wines (Labelle, Zorvino) and meads (Moonlight Meadery, Sap House Meadery) to her inventory and will likely hold wine tastings in the future.
Duncanson considered enrolling in culinary school but instead set her sights on starting a small business management certificate program, which she thought might be more useful for what she intended to do with her baked goods. She waitressed and worked at a coffee shop before opening her own store.
“When I realized this space was available, I thought I would give it a shot and see if I could get started here,” she said. The plans to open such a shop in the small town have been in the back of Duncanson’s mind since she was in high school, as was the location. “There is really such a sense of community down here,” she said. “All of the business owners have already come by to introduce themselves and see how I’m doing.”
Duncanson has so much faith in the Oval that even if her shop outgrows its current space she plans to stay put until a larger space opens up in the center of her hometown.