People ask me every day when is LCCC coming to Main Street, Pittston.
For the past three weeks, I’ve answered them the same way: we’re already here.
No, not in the former M&T bank building. Not yet, anyway. But a block to the north. 8 N. Main St., to be exact, right across from Joyce Insurance.
That’s where Christa Lynn Hill, the former Christa Lynn Razvillas, is putting her dual degrees from the community college — Hotel & Restaurant Management and Pastry Arts — to good use.
Christa Lynn’s Bakery opened July 23. And Christa Lynn has barely slept since. That’s not an exaggeration. When I chatted with her last Monday afternoon, she said it was the first day of her new schedule. She decided her hours would be from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. Yes, that’s a 12-hour shift. And, yes, that’s right through the night. But it was after 3 p.m. when I left and she and her husband, Michael, were not only still on the job, but also heading to the kitchen. Close to 18 hours after she showed up to start baking, she was still going strong. And looking fresh as a daisy.
That’s how it is when you love what you do.
And Christa Lynn really loves what she does.
She loves the baking, she loves interacting with her customers, she loves her whole family scurrying around helping her, and she loves being part of the downtown Pittston renaissance. That might be the best part.
“This is all about community,” she says. “A lot of people deserve credit for what’s going on in Pittston, Mayor Lombardo, Rep. Carroll, but it’s up to my generation to uphold it, to keep it going.”
Christa Lynn is fond of the expression “all in.” As noted, she’s still trying to figure out a reasonable schedule. She has come to work at midnight, at 3 a.m. She has worked more than 24 straight hours. And none of that bothers her. “I’m all in,” she says.
Her husband, who moved here from Florida when they married, quit his job to assist at the bakery. He’s all in. Her dad, Bob Razvillas, took a week of vacation for the start-up and is there helping every day. All in.
Her mom. The former Annette Rossi, helps with the books and provides some of her own recipes. Her brother is there. Her friends. She and her husband just bought a home on Broad Street. They’re not just “all in” at the bakery, but “all in” with Pittston in general.
Christa Lynn is an artist. She draws and paints and took classes with the legendary Sue Hand since 7th grade. When it came time for college, she was torn between art school and culinary school. “Culinary school called my name,” she says. She enrolled at Luzerne County Community College and there encountered a man who changed her life.
“Chef Nemetz was an idol to me before I even met him,” she says. That’s because of the things Chef Sal Shandra, chair of the department, said about him.
Rich Nemetz joined his family’s bakery in Swoyersville when he was just 17 years old. I recall being in Nemetz Bakery with my daughter when she was still in a stroller. I told the girl waiting on me that they should advertise. Their baked goods were so fantastic I was sure they could triple their business. “He” doesn’t want that, the girl said. If his business gets too big he’s afraid he’ll have to cut down on the quality, or charge more. “He” also doesn’t write down any recipes, she said. They’re all in his head. And “he” also insists on cooking in a coal-fired oven.
As much as I admired this old stubborn baker, I couldn’t help but think “he” was making a lot of mistakes. “That’s all well and good,” I said. “But what’s going to happen when he dies?”
“He’s only 22 years old,” the girl said.
“He” was Rich Nemetz.
Christa Lynn calls Chef Nemetz “the definition of a teacher.” She said the first class she took with him was Pastry 101. It was about baking bread and pizza crust. “I had no interest in baking bread,” she said. “But I wound up learning not just how to bake bread but how to live my life.”
Today, Christa Lynn bakes bread on Main Street. You can try her multi-grain version as avocado toast, with honey and perhaps bacon. She also bakes bagels, fresh every day. She serves them with her homemade cream cheese.
She bakes cookies, Italian cookies, oatmeal cookies, pepper cookies. She bakes tarts and brownies and all sorts of creative sweets. She loves to make specialty cakes and speciality cookies. And she’s becoming famous for her macarons. Not macaroons, macarons. They’re these light, meringue-like, French sandwich cookies she whips up with a variety of fillings. She’s designated Fridays macaron days. And she’s planning some Italian versions for the Pittston Tomato Festival.
Christa Lynn’s is located a couple of blocks from the Tomato Festival grounds, but she plans evening hours, probably 6:30 to 9:30, during the festival, offering dessert and coffee and a cool place to sit and enjoy them. She’s also hoping to tempt parade-goers next Saturday morning.
The bakery is open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Breakfast offerings include variations of egg sandwiches and oat bowls. Bob Razvillas recommends the cinnamon sugar bread with sliced apples. Lunch includes sandwiches and homemade soups. And the baked goods keep getting replenished all day long.
Christa Lynn says she’s completely open to suggestions from her customers. That’s where her stuffed pepper soup came from.
“This is a relationship business,” she says. “That’s what I want it to be. And I get to make it that. After all, that’s my name on the window.”
Just one more way she’s “all in.”
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week for Greater Pittston Progress. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.