An Epicurean Gem celebrates 50 years
Betsy, Wilma, and Wolfgang Joas proudly display their wares.
Photo above by Visko Hatfield
Whether you live in Litchfield, Washington, or any town in the northwest corner, mention the Dutch Epicure and people swoon. Here you will find a most distinctive mix of food products, to say nothing of the fresh baked goods and the wide array of cooked foods.
It all began on the Holland America cruise ship the SS Rotterdam where Betsy and Wolfgang Joas, owners of the Dutch Epicure, first met. He was working in the kitchen while she worked as a showgirl, a stewardess, and a babysitter. They fell in love, got married, and began their amazing adventure. “My father was born in Berlin and my mother is from Diemen, just outside of Amsterdam,” Wilma Joas, their daughter, explains. “After they were married my father got a restaurant job in New York City. Then a friend who had worked on the ship with him was working at the Yankee Pedlar in Torrington and got him a job there as pastry chef. That’s how we wound up in Litchfield.”
The Dutch Epicure shop was actually in existence before the Joases arrived here. It was strictly a bakery and was housed in the little red building down the road that is now the Braeval shop. The owner was retiring and wanted to sell the business. When the 600 square foot space became too small, the couple moved to what was then Bantam Electric’s showroom, next door to the present location.
In the beginning there was not much business but local Dutch people and their friends found the shop and the couple stayed the course. “Perseverance,” says Mr. Joas, a tall soft-spoken man. “We were poor but we kept going. After the first year, our accountant said turn the key and just leave,” he explains with a laugh. But they didn’t. By this time the couple had three daughters to raise. Wilma, the youngest, is now the owner of the business.
“I virtually grew up in the kitchen of that little red building helping out after school and on weekends,” she recalls. “I had no interest in going into the business. I graduated from Boston University with a degree in communications. However, when my parents wanted to sell the business, I decided to come home and keep it in the family.”
(Photo: It all began in a small white cottage. Betsy Joas seen here with her two babies out front.)
Joas has held true to the original concept of the shop. “We are known region-wide for our European style pastries, breads, cookies, and cakes made on the premises; German meats and sausages, various fine teas, jams, and chocolates from all over Europe. And we still have some of the more unique Dutch cheeses,” says Joas.
“We cut to order and you can taste a sample before you buy. That doesn’t happen in most local shops.”
But it is still the homemade cakes and breads that have people lining up, they say. Requests for cakes for special occasions are always honored. Joas has a photographic memory and can replicate anything she’s done before. “There is more competition than when my parents first started. You need to keep the mix interesting, have a positive attitude, and, as my dad says, perseverance.”
IN THE DAY Wolfgang, Wilma, and Betsy in the original Dutch Epicure Shop with their fresh baked and decorated cakes. Serving up cheeses, cookies, meats, and more along with their freshly baked and decorated cakes.