Galit Grutman has been up since 5 a.m., but you’d never be able to tell.
Her long chocolate-colored hair is pulled into a neat, low ponytail, and her apron is free of the stains or smears that plague many who spend their days in the kitchen. Her eyes are soft, but they still sparkle as she quietly moves between the front of the shop and the kitchen in the back. As customers wander in, picking up a loaf of challah bread or a selection of pastries from a shelf on the left, Grutman greets them warmly, switching from English to her native Hebrew with ease. She is completely at home in her Newton Centre bakery, something somewhat shocking considering that Galit’s Treats With Love only been open for four weeks.
Pedestrians who regularly passed the storefront, once home to candy shop Sweet Tart, watched the space transform from an area papered over and hidden from view, to a cozy looking café within the span of six months. So when Grutman opened the bakery in mid-August, quietly and without much fanfare, people were curious, knocking on the bakery’s glass door and making sure that they were allowed inside. Since then, word of Galit’s Treats With Love has spread through word of mouth, through the Newton community, and through the vibrant Israeli community threaded throughout the Boston area.
These communities have grown in importance for Grutman since she moved from Israel to Newton with her husband and two young sons 18 years ago. As the family adjusted to their new lives, Grutman becoming immersed in the community of a local Jewish school, she couldn’t help but notice the pale comparison between the pastries and breads that she and her family had grown up with, and the ones available in the Newton area.
“When we came here we didn’t like the pastry and the breads,” Grutman said. “It was different … it was a different texture, different tastes, different looks.”
The challah bread, for example, became more of a cake that was “too squishy, too eggy, and too yellowish,” and it so wrong that her sons wouldn’t eat it. Knowing that she could do infinitely better within the confines of her own kitchen, Grutman began baking every Friday, a big loaf of challah and a batch of rugelach. With these homemade delicacies on the table, the family would welcome the Shabbat each week—also called the Sabbath or the seventh day of rest in Judaism—a tradition that continued as Grutman’s family grew to include two daughters.
But on Feb. 6, 2014, Grutman’s eldest son, Roee, committed suicide at age 17, a tragedy that shocked the Grutman family and the surrounding community. Devastated, Grutman completely stopped baking, and the family essentially dined out or was aided by friends for the next year. The kitchen had just become filled with too many painful memories for Grutman to handle.
“It was the memories of [Roee] coming to my kitchen, opening everything to see what’s for dinner today, finishing everything before dinner, it was just—it was too much,” Grutman said.
But as time passed, Grutman’s pain changed shape, and when her two daughters begged her to bake something while on winter vacation in 2015, she agreed.
So Grutman, slightly out of practice with regard to measurements, began mixing and kneading dough for “a thousand people,” finding herself with so much extra challah and rugelach that she distributed it amongst her friends, leaving presents of baked goods on their porches with the message “Shabbat Shalom” (a Hebrew greeting) attached. The response from her friends was immediate, texts and calls praising her baking flooding her inbox and telling her how much the gift was loved.
Within the week, Grutman had decided that she would turn her obvious talent into an online business, and began the process of completing the necessary paperwork. A few permits, tests, and tax accounts later, all that was left to do was choose a name, and for that, Grutman knew exactly the direction to take. Galit’s Treats With Love—a double meaning given that Grutman’s pastries are baked with love, and that she hopes to treat those around her with love as well.
Through her online store, Grutman continued baking and selling the authentic Israeli confections that Roee had loved, and that she had served her family for so long, and relished the opportunity to share them with the community around her. Galit’s Treats With Love grew in popularity, as the orders snowballed, first just from friends, then from friends of friends, and even complete strangers. Grutman also began selling out of farmer’s markets in the area, putting faces to some of her customers.
But as the notifications of each order grew and grew with each month, Grutman knew that she couldn’t run the business alone anymore. Galit’s Treats With Love had outgrown online business model, which demanded that Grutman bake solely in her own kitchen only aided by her relatives. She began searching for real estate in the area, exploring West Roxbury, Needham, and West Newton as options before her relator pointed her to the vacant storefront in Newton Centre.
The relators understood Grutman’s needs not only as a business owners, but also as a mother. With two teenage daughters and a toddler at home, she wasn’t just a baker, she was a mother, and this Newton Centre location permitted her to work a mere five minutes away from her family.
So Grutman began the process of renovating the space, turning to friends for help with design and construction. Instead of sourcing furniture from mega restaurant supply companies, Grutman worked to find pieces that might appear in her own home in order to give the bakery the homey feeling that she hoped to achieve. In the cozy seating area in the front of the story, rustic tables are grouped in front of huge windows that allow light to fill the space. Personal touches are scattered throughout the space, such as her grandmother’s cuckoo clock which ticks comfortingly in the background
But the most personal area of the bakery might be the front left corner, Roee’s corner. The beautiful seating area, which Grutman set off with blue velvet chairs, acts as a subtle reminder of Roee’s presence. His trophies and medals decorate the windowsill, and a Paris-themed trunk—a city that he always had wanted to visit—is filled with his favorite childhood games.
For Grutman, Roee not only acts as the inspiration behind her business, he was there throughout the entire opening process, making his presence known in ways that undeniable.
“He’s such a big part here, you have no idea, you have really no idea,” Grutman said, “Things that I can tell you, he was trying to communicate with us and let us know that he’s here with us.”
Take the first batch of stickers sent to the store bearing the Galit’s logo. Each pack of stickers came in a cardboard envelope, which was sealed with a sticker bearing a unique serial number, and the date of production. The stickers sent to Grutman bore the serial RG26—Roee’s initials and the date of his death. What’s more is that the stickers were printed on Aug. 17, a date that corresponds with Roee’s age when he died.
Roee’s presence is undeniable not only in the physical space of the restaurant, but also in the food that he inspired his mother to share with the Newton community. From her challah loaves and Nutella filled rugelach, to her flakey bourekas and silky mousses and cheesecakes, each item is made with a particular kind of care. Unlike many that you could find in stores, the rugelach are subtle, not cloying sweet, and the dough has a delightful springiness. The bourekas, which come stuffed with either cheese and herbs or potato’s that Grutman bakes and mashes herself, are delicately flaky confections of a refreshingly savory nature. For those on the hungrier side, Gurtman has also created an all-day breakfast boureka filled with eggplant, cheese, hardboiled egg, and tahini.
And Grutman’s pastries and breads are not the only things that are attracting a larger crowd with each day, the coffee has already been called the best in the area by some customers. Grutman offers Turkish coffee in addition to a Israeli iced coffee—a magical slushy-like melted coffee ice cream type creation that is unlike anything that most Americans have ever tried.
And honestly, as are the pastries. As Grutman explained, everything sold within Galit’s Treats With Love exhibits the “gentle” quality of Israeli baking, something “light” that won’t leave you dying of fullness like many American sweets. It’s an attractive quality, and one that has enchanted more and more customers with each week that the bakery has been open.
Just two weeks ago, Grutman had to close shop early after her shelves were completely picked clean, and the demand only rose with the high number of Rosh Hashanah orders.
But Grutman will take the challenges as the come, and in the meantime, enjoy the sight of her family adjusting to their second home. Her children sitting in Roee’s corner after school and doing homework while they nibble on pastries that taste like love.
Featured Image by Madeleine D’Angelo / Heights Editor