Galit’s Treats Café and Bakery will close on Saturday, Jan. 28, saddening legions of loyal fans. The warm, cozy Newton café and bakery, which specialized in delicious challah and babka, was a gathering place for locals, and owner Galit Grutman was always a cheerful presence. I recently chatted with her for a farewell story, which was, pun intended, bittersweet.

“The reason we’re closing is mainly due to the fact that it’s so difficult to get good working people who are willing to work and responsible enough to run it if needed,” she says.

Happily, she’ll turn her attention to working on a baking cookbook with family recipes, with help editing from her family.

“I couldn’t have done this without my loving family, caring friends and amazing community,” she says. “My three daughters helped me in running the business, working day and night, weekends, holidays, early hours and late nights. My husband also chipped in and helped in times when it was busy and exhausting. It’s a family business,” she says, and the cookbook will be the same.

The bakery was a passion project for her, created from heartache. In 2014, her 17-year-old son, Roee, died by suicide. The Newton community mobilized to support her, bringing food. Grutman had always been a talented amateur baker, but it pained her to go into the kitchen to make her son’s favorite things.

“My world collapsed. My life shattered…I was paralyzed. I stopped cooking. I stopped baking. I didn’t clean the house. I was completely devastated. But my family, friends and the Jewish and non-Jewish community just gave us a big hug and they didn’t let us go,” she recalls. “It’s not like when the Shiva was done, they disappeared. On the contrary, they kept on coming, and everyone kept bringing us food.”

Eventually, encouraged by her other children, Grutman gingerly returned to the kitchen by baking challah—enough to distribute to the friends who had been so kind to her in the depths of grief. Beyond being grateful, her neighbors absolutely loved the taste. Grutman began to cultivate a strong following, casually distributing her baked goods out of her home.

“I thought: ‘Maybe I should start my own business, in memory of Roee’,” she recalls. With the help of a realtor and a lawyer—who refused to accept money for the job—she found a location in Newton Centre, opening in August 2017.

She focused on treats from her Israeli childhood, all-natural and without preservatives, like babka, challah, Jerusalem bagels, homemade jams, sufganiyot and egg sandwiches with tahini. To honor her son, she placed a box of his childhood toys for kids to enjoy while their parents sipped coffee, along with photos, keepsakes and stones where visitors could write encouraging messages.

Galit's Sufganiyot
Sufganiyot from Galit’s Treats (Courtesy photo)

“My husband chipped in and helped in times when it was busy and exhausting, and my older son who resides in Israel supported me spiritually and encouraged me to keep going,” she says. “My parents traveled from Israel to create some of our favorite treats in my bakery’s kitchen, such as baklava and pickled veggies, which were new menu items and apparently very successful. I had some really good and genuine employees in the shop who were so very dedicated to help[ing] me,” she says.

She’ll miss her loyal customers and the long-lasting friendships that sprang up from the bakery, she says, but she hopes to keep in touch.

“It’s devastating to close the doors after getting to know my customers. They’re not customers; most of them are like family,” she says. “They sit down and share how their day went. They know where I travel, and I know where they travel. I know their family members, and they know mine…People who didn’t know one another would sit next to a table with their coffee and start chatting with each other. I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given to observe this.”

She hopes her legacy continues with the cookbook—that people can still turn the pages and unlock a little bit of the bakery’s magic, even if from a distance. “I hope people can create [my recipes] in their own houses and enjoy them.”