New bakery brings slice of Europe to Durham

Triangle Business Journal

March 13, 2022

By Laura Brummett 

An accountant-turned-baker is opening an authentic European bakery in a 10-building office campus near Research Triangle Park.

Margaret Szewczyk moved to North Carolina rom Poland as a child. Now, she’s left the financial sector to pursue her passion for baking European-style goods full time. Chef Chick’s Bakery will open in Durham’s Meridian Business Park this summer.

Chef Chick’s, named as a play on the pronunciation of Szewczyk, will have scones, madeleines, kolaches and various other European-style desserts made in smaller sizes and with less sugar than typical American sweets. The bakery will also have a range of breads, including sourdough, rye, multigrain and pumpernickel. The shop will have seating for around 10 inside with eight more seats outside and several picnic tables.

Szewczyk wants customers to feel like they’ve been transported to Europe when they step inside the 1,500-square-foot space. She’ll be importing curtains from Europe and bringing in fine china that has been in her Polish family for generations.

“We’re going to have an immersive experience when a customer comes in,” Szewczyk said. “We want to teach people where the pastries come from and teach them how to pronounce things. It’s going to be a whole atmosphere and feeling, not just the flavor.”

Before transitioning to a full-time baker, Szewczyk spent decades in the financial sector working for companies such as Allscripts (Nasdaq: MDRX), FMC Corporation (NYSE: FMC) and Mayne Pharma. In 2019, she left her full-time job to pursue baking. Szewczyk returned to contract work during the Covid-19 pandemic but is now transitioning to running Chef Chick’s full time.

“I have been in accounting and finance since I was 16. While I enjoyed it, that isn’t what I would say my passion is in,” she said. “It’s always been my dream to open a bakery, it just took a long time to get there.”

Szewczyk recently remodeled her home kitchen and got it certified with the state to operate as a commercial kitchen. She will be selling her baked goods via online orders out of her home until the Durham storefront opens. The build out is scheduled to begin in April and is expected to take two to four months.

Szewczyk is the only investor in the business, and the project will cost between $200,000 and $300,000, she said. Given the current supply chain disruptions, Szewczyk has focused on buying used equipment from local sources to cut costs and lead times.

The bakery will also serve coffee, and Szewczyk will be offering catering services as well. Chef Chick’s products will also be seen in local restaurants, including pastries and breads at neighboring Tobacco Wood Brewing Co.

“It’s expensive to do a build out from scratch, but we want to make it right,” she said. “It’s really important to us that people leave with a lasting impression.”

Szewczyk’s family moved to the Triangle area when she was 7 years old for her father to take a research position at Duke University. She will be the primary chef at Chef Chick’s, with a handful of other staff working for the bakery. Chef Chick’s will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. The goods will be baked fresh each morning, and the shop will close if everything is sold out.

Meridian Business Park, a nearly 700,000-square-foot campus, is located west of Research Triangle Park and owned by commercial real estate firm Accesso, based in Florida. Chef Chick’s will be the second retail spot to open in the business park, following Tobacco Wood Brewing Co. The Oxford-based brewery opened in a 4,700-square-foot space in June 2021.

The brewery and bakery are located in the park’s amenity building. The building’s last retail spot is currently available and totals 1,500 square feet. Mike Adams, southern region managing director for Accesso, said the team is marketing to service retail tenants and could potentially sign a cycling studio for the space.

“We are delighted to have another woman-owned business in Chef Chick’s join us at Meridian Business Park,” Adams said. “Chef Chick’s will allow Margaret to live her passion of recreating the experiences of her upbringing while providing all those who work at or visit Meridian the opportunity to enjoy high-quality, truly authentic European favorites.”

Bruce Alexander of Maverick Partners Realty Services Inc. and Mike Hickey from Triangle Real Estate Services brokered the transaction on behalf of Accesso.