"Their goal is to get together and talk about what's good about Huntington and what we can make better. It was through meeting those people I got the idea to come down to Heritage Station and look at it as a possibility for a place for a business."
Back in the kitchen, Melissa Oliver and Shelly Keeney make the pastries, cookies and scones, while Baker produces a wide range of homemade rustic breads, cinnamon rolls and French macarons.
Breads range from the ones the woman from Kentucky purchased to a nine-grain loaf with sunflower seeds, a Siciliano featuring olive oil and sesame seeds, a Moroccan loaf with olives and Greek oregano, various pumpernickel, sourdough and rye breads and a Rosemary Pecan Pugliese (pool-YAY-zay).
The story behind that last loaf offers a glimpse into the kind of community-based bread culture Baker had in mind when she opened River and Rail.
"Pugliese is a rustic Italian bread from the region of Italy called Puglia. The rosemary pecan combination came from a question I asked my sister. She lives in Portland, Ore. I was getting ready to open the bakery, and I said 'What kind of bread do you like to buy in a local bakery in Portland?' She said she bought these little rolls that had rosemary and pecans.
"I thought, OK, I can do a rosemary pecan bread. I incorporated fresh rosemary and toasted pecans into the pugliese. It's a delicious bread -- it's got crunch, it's got earthy flavor. It's perfect for dipping, for sandwiches. For all sorts of things."
Her loaves range in price from $4.50 to $6 while the whole French baguettes cost $2 or $1 for a mini-baguette.
But River and Rail is not solely about the bread, pastries, cookies, coffees and teas on display, but also about the place itself, said Baker.
"The people who work here interact with our customers, we get to know our customers. It's a way of sort of bringing that personal touch to a business, something that you don't get very easily at a big box or a big chain store."
Every Saturday, there's a daytime open mic from noon to 4 p.m., plus the occasional poetry jam and book signing. And, of course, there is the simple yet substantial pleasure of just hanging out for awhile with a friend, a book, a laptop, a cappuccino and a slice of German shortbread or a cranberry-orange scone.
"People get together, they meet each other. It's just a variety of activities that are not just about selling bread, they're about building community."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.