For Roasters & Retailers

Wild Honey Cafe sets village abuzz

​The name came to Jillian Martin as she slept.

“I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, ‘Wild Honey,'” she said. “It sounded really beautiful. It had nice imagery. And that was it.”

Now the Westport woman is living a dream-come-true as the owner of Wild Honey  in the iconic Russells Mills Village building that also houses the recently reopened Davoll’s General Store.

The 1,000-square-foot, 19-seat eatery opened Friday for breakfast and lunch, kicking off an unexpectedly busy first weekend for Martin and her family. After spending most of the year preparing, Martin said it felt “surreal” to watch actual customers walk through the sliding barn-style door for the first time.

“Everyone who came in here this weekend, the first thing out of their mouths was, ‘We’re so happy you’re here,'” Martin said Monday from a spotless table in the cozy dining room as she prepared for her first full week. “What a nice thing to say. We’re happy to be here, too.”

For the 2005 Westport High School alumna, Wild Honey is the culmination of years spent in the kitchen, lovingly crafting food at home and at other businesses.

“I like to bake. I like to cook. This had always been a dream of mine,” Martin said.

Just one year ago, Martin had no idea the dream would become a reality so soon.

The invitation to lease the space came in late 2016 from family friend Kim Arruda, who owns Davoll’s with Jim Chouinard. She remembered Martin’s passion for cooking and asked her if she wanted to put down restaurant roots in the village.

At first, Martin wasn’t sure how to answer. She was recently married and working toward her social worker’s license at the time. Meanwhile, her husband, Jacob, was getting involved in creating an escape-room entertainment venue in New Bedford.

“We thought, ‘We can’t both quit our jobs and open businesses,'” Martin said with a laugh. “That’s insane.”

After a couple of months, the couple decided to toss sanity aside and follow their passions, even if doing so meant they would have to put off buying a house.

“The goal for us was to open our own business and work for ourselves,” Martin said. “You have to take that leap of faith, I guess. You can’t do it without putting your whole self into it.”

With the help of family and friends, Martin, a UMass Amherst alumna, spent much of the year preparing her , located to the west of Davoll’s main entrance. The result is a warm, sunny room with yellow walls, a wooden counter and tables crafted by Martin’s father-in-law, and a calming view of the Paskamansett River across the street.

Several days before opening, Martin said she and her husband scaled back the menu to focus on the strongest items, not ruling out an expansion down the line.

The diverse group of sandwiches on the lunch menu range in price from $4 to $9. The Wild Honey Club boasts roasted turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado and honey mustard. The French Onion Panini includes roast beef, cheddar, spinach and tomato with French onion aioli. The ThanksgivingPanini – the No. 1 bestseller in the first few days, according to Martin – includes turkey, stuffing, spinach and cranberry aioli. The lunch menu also includes chicken salad, grilled cheese, an Italian-style grinder, salads and wraps.

For breakfast, the  offers croissants, English muffins, bagels and specialty breakfast sandwiches. , iced , lattes, espressos, cappuccinos, hot chocolate, tea and an assortment of other beverages are also offered.

Martin said she is speaking with farmers about sourcing local ingredients. Also, it’s not in stock yet, as the business name might suggest, but “local honey is going to happen,” Martin said.

Patrons who are hungry but also in need of flowers won’t have to look far.

Martin’s brother, Joshua Duclos-Rickard, also of Westport, runs his florist company, Fresh Foraged Designs, out of space on the right side of the .

“This is the biggest gift ever that has been handed to us,” he said of the opportunity to work out of Davoll’s. Duclos-Rickard previously worked mostly out of his basement.

His work appears throughout the  in the form of little table centerpieces. On Monday, he was thinking about changing them up for the new week – just the welcoming touch for customers exploring the business for the first time.

“I want people to have a place to meet up,” Martin said of her long-term vision for Wild Honey. “A place where people can relax, have  with a friend and say hi. I like people.”

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