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Just in time for Mardi Gras – the New Orleans-influenced Traditions Bakery plans to reopen this week.

And what a relief for Charles and Ernestine “Ernie” Martinez, who have had a hard couple of months on top of a hard year. But despite their troubles, they’re planning a second reopening on Thursday, Feb. 1, about 15 months after they opened the bakery in the tiny lavender house behind the Black Mountain Police Department.

One day last week, Charles was cleaning the shelves inside the case where he displays his eclairs, cream puffs, oyster patties and doughnuts. Sitting with a strong cup of coffee, he said he’s been using his time off to plan a reopening celebration of the shop that some people can’t live without.

He had been back at work for several days, despite a left hand that’s hard to use. It’s hard, but not as hard as the last year or so has been for the Martinezes.

They lost their daughter last August in an automobile accident. And the evening after Thanksgiving, Ernestine was pulling into their driveway in Swannanoa when she accidentally hit their daughter’s long-haired dachshund, Roxie, the closest thing Ernestine had left of Marlaina, the adopted daughter they lost.

Charles ran out to the driveway and picked up Roxie. And because Roxie was injured, afraid or delirious, the 19-year-old dog bit Charles hard on the left hand, so hard that he needed surgery. (Sadly, because of her age and condition, the Martinezes had to put her down.)

“I bet she didn’t have six teeth, and I found every one of them,” Charles said, laughing as he rotated his left hand to show the extent of the injury. More than two months later, his index finger is swollen and stiff. As a baker, he’s burned himself many times, he said, but nothing burned like the fire in his finger he felt after the surgery.

 “It looks happy now,” he said, compared to how it was at first – big enough to put in a hot dog bun, he joked.

He’s diabetic, and doctors had to do significant cleaning and repair. Ernestine was beside herself, what with all that happened in a short amount of time. The shop has been closed since Thanksgiving, missing the lucrative Christmas season, and Charles has been itching to get back to the shop before Mardi Gras.

People have missed him. In the several days that he’s been back, several people have stopped by to see how he’s doing.

“The community has been really, really good to us,” he said, speaking of business in general. “They’ve gone out of their way to take care of us. We’ve made good friends.”

Ernestine is from Woodfin, so when they lost their house in New Orleans to Hurricane Katrina – a 125-year-old Creole-style shotgun house with pecan trees that Ernestine adored – they moved to the mountains, settling in Black Mountain.

Traditions Bakery’s reopening is good news to fans of fresh bread and pastries, who lost Black Mountain Bakery when it closed around Christmas. It’s good news for those who depend on his King Cakes for their Mardi Gras gatherings.

Charles has revamped the menu so that he’ll offer things like Crème Brule, Whiskey Bread Pudding and something new – Boston Cream Delights with Dutch Chocolate Shells.  

The coffee is the same as it ever was – deep, dark and “as close strong to New Orleans as I can get without scaring anyone off,” he said.

Get some gumbo!

On Feb. 11 from 11 a.m. until it runs out, Traditions Bakery will serve up free filé chicken and andouille gumbo and fresh French bread.

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