Nicole Tocco Cardwell, the owner and baker of Grit and Grains views her bakeshop as a modern version of her grandparents’ dream. Her grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy and owned and operated their own bakery in the North End of Boston for over 50 years.  

Grit and Grains bakeshop is a licensed Homestead Food Operation through the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and is run out of Tocco Cardwell’s home kitchen. She bakes everything from scratch, in small batches with responsibly sourced ingredients based on her customer’s orders. Customers order in advance from the Grit and Grains website and during checkout choose which day to pick-up their breads and sweet treats from Tocco Cardwell’s front porch. The pick-up process is contact free.  

After Tocco Cardwell lost her job due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), for the first time in 15 years she had a lot of free time on her hands. With a passion for baking and extensive knowledge on how to make our food system environmentally and socially sustainable, she decided to create her own bakeshop.  

“I had my dream job,” said Tocco Cardwell. “Influencing sourcing decisions for a national, large buyer of food and helping employees and guests connect with the sources of their food and the social and environmental issues related to it. I managed a team of passionate, thoughtful, committed individuals based all around the country. For a long time, I have felt unsatisfied sitting at a computer for most of my days and working remotely most of the time. I wanted to do something more physical, more tangible.” 

Grit and Grains opened about two months ago and is a one-woman bakeshop. Tocco Cardwell, her husband, and 3-year-old daughter recently moved to Durham while her husband is enrolled in the accelerated Master of Nursing program at the University of New Hampshire. While experiencing the loss of her job and adjusting to her new hometown, she decided to start Grit and Grains. Tocco Cardwell found this new experience has allowed her to get closer with her neighbors and community.  

“I went from feeling isolated to truly becoming part of this community,” said Tocco Cardwell. “I’ve connected with more neighbors, community members and small business owners over the last two months than I ever could have dreamed.” 

Tocco Cardwell has not thought too much about her long-term goals for her company and instead has been focusing on her short-term plans. She has been selling out each week and is working on keeping up with demand and maintain the high quality of her bakery items. She said her dream would be to renovate part of her home into a small conventional kitchen or potentially open her own bakery in downtown Durham.  

“Starting this bakeshop was possible in part because I could do it without much investment,” said Tocco Cardwell. “In the end, I realized that the two things I needed were determination (grit) and plenty of grains to bake with.” 

From sourcing responsible ingredients to making fresh baked goods, Grit and Grains offers the local community the chance to support a small business and eat well.