Bottletree Bakery celebrates 20 years in Oxford
By Allison Fazio
Loud conversation, the smell of freshly brewed coffee and an array of pastries greet Oxford residents at the door of a unique, local restaurant that opened 20 years ago.
Bottletree Bakery opened Jan. 31, 1995, and has been flooded with customers ever since.
Located at 923 Van Buren Ave., this small restaurant sits on the edge of the Oxford Square. Owner Cynthia Gerlach discovered this location at age 25 and decided to open her own bakery.
“I just jumped in,” Gerlach said. “I loved getting to build the bakery. It was a lot of fun.”
Originally from Portland, Oregon, she came to the University of Mississippi to study physics, but changed her major to Southern studies.
“When I was getting my master’s in Southern studies, I got a job as assistant director of tourism at the House of Blues,” she said. “I worked there for nine months and then decided to open a bakery here in Oxford.”
Opening her own bakery was also a learning process. The things she learned while starting her own business helped her become successful.
Gerlach also learned some life lessons.
“Don’t go into business with someone you don’t know,” she said. “Also, don’t ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. That’s a good work ethic.”
Bottletree Bakery is a restaurant filled with originality. From food to the furniture and decorations, every item in Gerlach’s store is unique.
All of the recipes are a combination of her grandmother’s, her mother’s, and her own discoveries. Some of the furniture pieces are from a store in Yazoo City that went out of business. Other pieces of furniture were made by Gerlach herself. The decorations are all from her personal art collection.
“The artwork in my bakery is an extension of my collection at my house,” she said. “It’s all artwork that I studied while I was in school.”
Inspired by art
The name of Gerlach’s bakery also relates to concepts she learned while studying Southern folk art. A bottle tree is supposed to represent a good luck charm. Glass bottles are placed on branches of trees, and the rattling of the bottles in the wind allows people to know they are safe.
Her inspiration to strive for success and open her own bakery came from mentors she had in school, as well as various creative people.
“You can find inspiration in the smallest thing,” Gerlach said. “A perfect muffin or when we get flowers in and the bakery looks really nice. It inspires you to do better.”
A typical day at Bottletree Bakery begins very early.
The bread and pastry bakers arrive between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. to begin baking items sold that day. The counter staff arrives at 6:30 a.m. and helps get the store ready for the day.
Gerlach arrives around 7 a.m. and can be found floating around the bakery doing different activities, from payroll to placing orders.
“I am here Tuesday through Saturday and I come in on Mondays for a few hours to work,” she said. “Even when I go home, I’m still working. I’m always getting the lists together for the next day.”
Not only does Bottletree Bakery serve as a restaurant for breakfast and lunch, it also hosts private parties.
Along with private parties, it also makes heavy hors d’oeuvres for catering.
Gerlach’s bakery is a fan-favorite with residents of Oxford, as well as university students.
Ole Miss junior Eddie Andrews visits Bottletree Bakery frequently.
“I enjoy the different environment,” Andrews said. “It’s relaxed with delicious, fresh food that I haven’t had anywhere else in Oxford. I highly recommend that everyone go and check it out.”
Bottletree Bakery is open Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. This restaurant is closed on Mondays.