Best friends Laura Belmonte (left) and Claudia Stemler have brought their love of books and baking to Chestnut Hill’s Market on the Fareway. (Photos by Katharine Cusick)

by Katharine Cusick

Claudia Stemler and Laura Belmonte are best friends. Both grew up baking with their Italian grandmothers, and they soon discovered that together they could carry on the tradition of baking quite well. They decided to turn their love of baking into a business – the Brunettes’ Bookshop Bakery – which is the newest vendor at the Chestnut Hill Farmers’ Market, now the Market on the Fareway.

As she iced spiced chai cupcakes (one of this week’s specials), Belmonte said that the reception from customers has been wonderful.

“This is only our third week,” she said, “and I think we’ve had really nice feedback. We’re really grateful to be here.”

Belmonte and Stemler had been working for about a year to open up a store for their business, nicknamed “B3,” when they got in touch with the market.

“We tried really hard to have a store of our own, but we feel now that this is where we were supposed to be,” Belmonte said.

B3’s refrigerated glass case shows off cupcakes in six everyday flavors and two special flavors that change weekly – all are made fresh on site. In the coming months, B3 will begin “Gluten-free Thursdays,” when they will offer gluten-free and vegan cupcakes.

Customers can enjoy a cupcake seated along the counter of the B3 stall, where they can watch through a clear sneeze-guard as Stemler and Belmonte create their scrumptious cupcakes.

“We thought it was kind of cool,” Belmonte said. “You can come in to have a cupcake, sit at the stools and watch us while we work or talk about books.”

Further along the counter is the “Bookshop” aspect of B3. Several shelves have been built into the stall, stacked with colorful works of classic and contemporary fiction, and “not a whole lot of ‘fluff,’” according to Belmonte.

Belmonte and Stemler both worked at bookshops when they were younger.

“They were our favorite jobs,” Belmonte said, “so we thought we’d try to incorporate it [into the baking business] as best we could.”

Though they had envisioned a larger area to display and sell books, as might have been more feasible in a larger store of their own, Belmonte said that “we’re fitting books in where we can right now.”

“We’re focusing more on the baking in the meantime and just trying to make the bookshop a little fun, side-part of the business,” she said.

B3 accepts book donations and goes through them, picking out ones they will display. In the coming months, they will initiate a Market Book Club. Both Stemler and Belmonte will have a “pick of the month” that will be on display at the front corner of the stall.

Overall, Belmonte said, “everybody in the market has been really nice, so it’s turned out to be a really great experience for us.”

Belmonte smiled as she said that she and her best friend are “happy to be working together.”

“This is our dream come true,” she added.

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