A quaint building on a side street in Georgetown with an interesting culinary history is about to be remade as a food venue very much of our time. Dog Tag Bakery, when it opens next year, will serve as a training ground for disabled veterans and their spouses. According to the founder, Father Rick Curry of Georgetown University, during the day the student bakers will work at the shop at 3206 Grace Street, and at night they’ll be on campus, taking a course in entrepreneurship in the School of Continuing Studies.
“We want to give the disabled vets and their spouses the full experience of running a business,” says Father Curry, himself a baker for 51 years and the author of The Secret of Jesuit Breadmaking. He did not give away any of his secrets, but he did say his favorite item to bake is “simple peasant bread. It’s the easiest thing to learn how to bake, and also one of the tastiest.”
The program will train 12 veterans and their spouses each year. “We’re recruiting from Walter Reed Medical Center and from the [Veterans Affairs Medical Center],” says Father Curry, adding that anyone who is interested in joining the program should contact him through the Dog Tag Bakery website.
The small, flat-roofed building has been on the market for quite some time. Its last tenant was Grace & Bamboo restaurant. Before that it was a French restaurant and before that a notable bakery, Pâtisserie-Cafe Didier, owned by Dieter G. Schorner, who teaches at the Culinary Institute of America. During his extensive career, Schorner served as pastry chef at some of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants and is credited with the revival of crème brûlée during his time at Le Cirque in New York. Before Didier, around the mid-1970s, the building was home to Hudson Brothers, an ahead-of-its-time market that was a boutique version of the big markets we take for granted today, with separate sections for a fromagerie, charcuterie, a butcher, and fresh produce.
Learning of the building’s history, Curry says he felt “good spirits.”
Dog Tag bought the building for $2.7 million; the sale closed last week. Demolition starts next week on a renovation that Curry expects will run another $1 million. His partner in the project is another successful entrepreneur, philanthropist Connie Milstein, who owns the Jefferson Hotel. She also has a history with a brand of cookies—Connie’s Cookies—which will be for sale in the new bakery and through mail order. The cookies will be part of the store and mail-order menu that will include croissants, pastries, and breads, as well as dog biscuits. The business will be open seven days a week from early morning into the evening. The building comes with a liquor license, but Curry says, “We don’t quite know how we’re going to manage that.” He assures they do plan to put it use.
Curry is optimistic for the future. “I think we’re going to do very well and we’re going to help a lot of disabled veterans.”