At Essen, there are some pretty familiar “new faces” running things.
In late July, and much to the excitement of locals, Dede and Bruce Warren purchased the downtown coffee and sandwich shop from Toby Gado, who opened Essen ten years ago, offering gourmet coffee, tea, baked goods and sandwiches in a cozy space. Essen benefits from its location directly across the Summer Street from the Manchester train station. It’s the kind of place that attracts loyalist regulars who hit Essen every day like clockwork. (Often, cashiers can start a customer’s order as soon as they walk through the door.)
Bruce and Dede seem ready-made to take Essen to the next level. First and foremost, the Warrens are locals, so they know what this market wants, and they know that serving your neighbors requires an extra dose of caring and listening. Dede grew up in Manchester and her parents (Dan and Hilda Daley) and extended family still live locally. She and Bruce met more than two decades ago during a 10-year stint working in hospitality and outdoor adventure in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Bruce, a native of Colorado, was working as a river guide and Dede, a recent Syracuse grad with a business and restaurant management degree, was working in the boat house of the same company. They fell in love started a family and moved back to Manchester when children Elizabeth and Nicholas were nearing preschool age to be closer to family. Bruce worked for a large hotel company in Boston and Dede dove into a job at The Stock Exchange (customers still ask for her there).
If “entrepreneurship” is requirement to succeed at Essen, Bruce and Dede both have it in spades. Bruce left corporate life seven years ago to start a rental property management company, Onsite Estate, which he still runs. And the couple six years ago took over the contract to run the Singing Beach canteen and convenience shop. They called it the Laughing Gull, and it has become a popular seasonal spot run by a crackerjack team of local and loyal employees. Fast forward to earlier this year, and Bruce got a hankering to lean further into the restaurant business, with his wife as his partner. At first, Dede was cool to the idea. Nevertheless, Bruce sought out Gado, who was ready to move on from Essen. They started talking and planning. The rest is, as they say, history.
As it happens, the couple purchased Essen on July 22, the day before Dede’s birthday. Bruce laughs and says when he went to pick up two sandwich coolers for the restaurant the day of the closing, he picked up a huge ribbon to put on them for Dede. (She says she loved it.)
For now, the pair are taking the time to watch the business, listen to customers and grow their offerings in ways that make sense. For instance, Essen has always offered cult-following items, including AJ King breads, Jim’s Bagels and Kim Gregory Pure Pastries. They’ll start marketing those more strongly while they look for other “can’t get them anywhere else” items. Over time, the plan is to reinvent Essen from the inside out, keeping the best of what those who love “their” Essen while freshening up or outright reinventing those areas that could be more. In the end, Bruce and Dede hope, Essen will blossom to become a community hive, buzzing with friends and neighbors who love it and feel it’s “theirs.”
Stop by and say hi. Chances are you’ll see Dede running things in the back. Bruce will be on hand, and maybe their son Nicholas will be taking your order.
4-C Summer St.
Monday–Friday: Open 6:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m.
Saturday–Sunday: Open 7:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m.