As two o’clock hit Driggs on Saturday afternoon, the slow grey drizzle turned into a downpour. The skies opened up, matching my mood. The sign at Pendl’s Bakery and Cafe had just switched from open to shut for the final time. An era in Teton Valley had come to a close.
My relationship with Pendl’s started like so many others in this valley. I first stumbled through the alley to try out the Austrian treats that so many were raving about. I took one bite of the apple strudel mit Schlag and it was over. I knew as long as that little red house was there and Martha was baking in it, I would be a loyal customer.
It wasn’t long before I added Pendl’s to my resume. That first summer working in the kitchen, I squeezed oranges with the hand crank juicer as Martha’s daughter Eloise crawled along the floor. Looking at an all grown up Elo now, it seems like a million years ago, yet the time disappeared with the blink of an eye.
Since learning that Martha would be hanging up her apron, memories of pastries, drinks, and lunches of days gone by have passed through my head. To think there was a day, before the ever-present line out the door, that Martha had the time to bake things like the Napoleon or the Triester. Those early days when only two girls manned the register, espresso machine, dish station, made the daily soup along with custom order deli sandwiches and still had enough time to get half the closing duty list done before 2 p.m. Some of my most fond summer memories in Teton Valley involve starting the night slinging brats, kraut, potato salad and beers in the garden and then heading over to catch the end of Music on Main back when Main Street still had the empty lot left behind by the fire at Fred Mugler’s shop.
For many in this valley, Pendl’s became a second home to stop at on the way to work or school. It was our local caffeinated Cheers. Upon entering the door, your eyes would be met with a warm smile from one of the Pendl’s girls who would say hello to you by name and ask if you wanted your usual. I have often been asked how I remembered so many names and so many drink orders. Job requirement is always my response.
So many of life’s biggest moments, both happy and sad, were shared in that space. Many engagement rings were flaunted while placing a buck in the ceramic tip mug. Several pregnant women were outed by changing their order from regular to decaf. I have both hugged and been the recipient of hugs from around the corner after the loss of a loved one.
As I sit in my own kitchen on a Sunday morning sipping some Pendl’s bean brew, I have a few parting words that I did not share yesterday with Martha as I slipped out of the building, having been the official last Pendl’s customer. First of all, congratulations. We all feared what would happen when you finally said goodbye, but you did it. You found the perfect someone to pass the baton to. Former Pendl’s girl, Kisa Koenig is the ideal woman to fill your flour dusted clogs. Her warm smile and energy are just what the little red house needs. And secondly, thank you. Thank you for hiring such amazing women who have become some of the best friends of my adulthood. Thank you for creating such a welcoming atmosphere where people from all walks of valley life were able to congregate and converse over a pastry or frothed beverage. Thank you for bringing your family heritage to our little corner of the world. I do not think I will ever find another apple strudel that will compare. Thank you for all of your warm smiles, laughs, hugs and most importantly for your friendship. While I know you are only a few short hours drive, a phone call or a quick text away, I will miss sneaking back into the kitchen to sit on the stairs while you roll the dough.
Mel Paradis is a local writer and a former coffee and pastry pusher at Pendl's.