STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER
PHOTOGRAPHY JIMMY IENNER, JR
Courtney Callo, Owner and Founder of Willoughby’s Depot Eatery, beautifully rebrands and reinvents Mrs. Murphy’s Donuts, a cherished Manchester hospitality landmark.
Stepping through the doors of Willoughby’s Depot Eatery on any given morning, one is likely to find a band of jolly guests enjoying a hot cup of coffee and a tempting, sugary treat. As lighthearted banter echoes throughout the room, the smell of freshly-baked donuts, scrumptious pastries, and savory breakfast sandwiches wafts through the air. Lifelong locals and visiting tourists congregate at tables and coffee bar stools, swapping stories with one another while the sun rises over the nearby mountains. Behind the counter, the owner of the charming eatery, Courtney Callo, holds court with jovial flair. Although her affect is as warm and inviting as the frosted sugar on a fresh batch of glazed donuts, her business acumen is anything but half-baked.
Through a mixture of hard work and conscientious oversight, Callo has found the proverbial “sweet spot” for her eatery in more ways than one. She has captured the enduring appeal of a small-town donut and sandwich shop by honoring the legacy of Mrs. Murphy’s Donuts, the well-known Manchester landmark that formerly occupied the same space on Depot Street. Callo proudly bakes her donuts with the same trademark Mrs. Murphy’s Donuts recipes that were celebrated for decades by Manchester’s residents and visitors, but she has taken smart and forward-thinking steps to ensure the continued relevancy of the business. The end result is a guest experience that is every bit as enjoyable and refreshing as the first bite of one of Willoughby’s perfectly-prepared pastries.
The Recipe for Success
Callo has only been officially involved in the hospitality business for a year and a half, but she is no stranger to the Southern Vermont food scene. A native resident of Manchester, her inborn acuity for hospitality management was passed down to her by her father, Peter Mutz. Courtney was brought up on top of Mount Equinox, where her parents ran Skyline Inn. Her father worked as the Chef at Skyline Inn, and later worked as the Food & Beverage Manager at Bromley Mountain for several decades. Coincidentally, several employees that Mutz employed throughout his time in Bromley’s kitchens also ended up working at Mrs. Murphy’s Donuts. Callo fondly remembers coming into Mrs. Murphy’s at various points during its former owner, Drew Bove’s four-decade managerial tenure. “I would walk in and see the employees that I knew from Bromley, which was so wonderful. I also knew many of the regulars who would come to sit at the counter.”
After working at Long Trail School as a German language teacher, school administrator, and Director of Development for over thirty years, Callo acquired the business and the proprietary recipes for Mrs. Murphy’s fantastic cake and yeast donuts from Bove in 2021. She transitioned into her new role as the steward of Manchester’s beloved breakfast bakery with masterful finesse, and updated and streamlined the eatery’s interior spaces, menus, and product offerings to match the needs of their varied clientele.
According to Callo, she always knew that it was incredibly important to honor the impact that Mrs. Murphy’s Donuts had made on the local community. “I’m an active board member of the Manchester Historical Society,” says Callo. “The Depot Street Historic District is home to many culturally-significant buildings, and I like to think that Willoughby’s Depot Eatery is located in a building that is historic for a completely different reason. Mrs. Murphy’s occupied a special place in the hearts of many of my most regular customers, so I went to great lengths to make them feel comfortable in the wake of the ownership transition.” Although Callo changed the baking schedule, began taking credit card payments, and moved the official opening time up from 5AM to 6AM, she still lets the old “morning crew” come in before Willoughby’s officially opens its doors to the public. “The donuts don’t come out until we open at 6AM, but the old crew can sit around and have a cup of coffee like the old days,” says Callo. “It makes them feel at home, so I’m happy to do it.”
In order to simultaneously accommodate the wide-ranging tastes of her constantly-evolving customer base, Callo also broadened the menu selections. In addition to classic donuts and crullers, seasonal and specialty donuts such as cider donuts, maple donuts, “hot chocolate donuts,” and “Fun-Fetti” donuts have been added into the rotation. The maple syrup used in the maple donuts is sourced from local, Southern Vermont sugaring operations whenever possible, and Willoughby’s serves locally-baked artisan bread from Rupert Rising. The breakfast and lunch sandwich selections have also been significantly expanded to include soups, chili, and additional sandwiches. “My niche is comfort food,” says Callo. “That goes from donuts to egg sandwiches and everything in between. My goal is to make food that is both delicious and affordable.”
Food, Family, and Furry Friends
The delectable breakfast and lunch sandwiches on Willoughby’s recently expanded menu aren’t just superbly flavorful – they also serve as
undying love for her family and canine companions. One notable lunch sandwich, “The Big Brom,” with ham, turkey, Havarti, and cranberry, pays tribute to her connection to nearby Bromley Mountain. “My husband, Rodger, also works at Bromley,” says Callo. “It’s played a very big part in my life.”
In addition, several breakfast sandwiches are named in honor of the friendly and loving dogs that Callo has owned over the years. The “Schultz Von Mutz,” made on a pretzel roll with mustard, was named in honor of a furry friend that drew his name from Callo’s German lineage and maiden name. Famished vegetarians will certainly savor a bite of the “Winnifred,” with avocado, egg, spinach, and cheese, and fans of Southern food will adore the decadent goodness of the “Delilah” sandwich. The house favorites, the “Beverly” and the classically-simple “Ellsworth” sandwiches round out the menu, which hangs on the back wall next to a group of framed photographs. The pictures showcase the dogs that correspond to the names of each breakfast sandwich, and they are surrounded by a nostalgic collection of Callo’s heartwarming family photographs.
A picture towards the right end of the row flawlessly captures the playful spirit of Callo’s favorite dog, Willoughby, from whom the eatery draws its namesake. Willoughby’s memory is also beautifully memorialized through a delicious sandwich made with a donut shell, with eggs, cheddar cheese, and a drizzle of maple syrup. “Willoughby was so sweet,” says Callo. “When I became an empty nester after all three of my
daughters, Julia, Petra, and Alina first left our home, he was my best buddy. I had a major connection with him, and we liked to call him ‘The Depot Wanderer.’”
According to Callo, Willoughby would frequently escape from their home in downtown Manchester Center, and he would frolic in the surrounding streets. “People would always post on the local social media forum about finding a friendly, yellow Labrador Retriever wandering about,” says Callo. “Eventually, there was a whole thread on the online forum called ‘Where’s Willoughby?’ it became a long-running joke that always made us smile.” Callo honors Willoughby’s memory and spirit to this day by wandering out to her customers’ cars and going to meet their dogs. She adds: “One of my team members makes delicious dog biscuits, and we always leave water outside during the summertime so that the pups can stay well-hydrated.”
The family ties at Willoughby’s Depot Eatery go well beyond the menu. Callo’s daughter Alina runs the establishment with her. Alina’s twin, Petra, also helps out at the shop and is a fantastic baker. “Baking is a multi-generational tradition in my family. I grew up baking with both of my grandmothers, and I’m thankful to work with my daughters to carry the tradition forward here at Willoughby’s. We’re fully capable of filling in should the baking staff ever need a day off.”
Callo’s eldest daughter, Julia, who currently resides in Utah, handles their social media. Tantalizing videos of donuts and sandwiches in their final stages of preparation are complemented by a humorous video of Callo bouncing around on a pogo stick outside of the entrance. “We like to have fun here,” says Callo. “The joy that we bring to the work comes out in the baking, and we want to give that joy to every customer who comes through our doors.”
Baking, Books, and Beyond
In addition to a broad assortment of donuts, and pastries, Willoughby’s offers seasonal pies, such as fruit pies, and traditional holiday pies. Callo also sells bags of delicious Scottish shortbread cookies, which celebrate her
grandmother’s Scottish heritage. The shortbread cookies make a wonderful snack, and they are also available at several local shops, including H.N. Williams. Customers who are on the go or planning an event can also secure event catering services for weddings, family gatherings, corporate events, and private parties throughout the year. Orders for donuts, pies, pastries, and sandwiches can be made within a week’s notice, and the orders can be picked up on-site or delivered to an event’s location. “We love catering events and making custom spreads of donuts, pies, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches,” says Callo. “Our platters of miniature donuts are especially great at parties, and we can make them in any flavor people like.”
Beyond the scope of Willoughby’s’ daily baking, hospitality, and catering services, Callo has also embarked on a new collaborative venture with the local author, Caren Simpson McVicker. McVicker’s highly-anticipated new book, Henderson House, will be distributed at bookstores across the country in the late summer. To promote her book’s launch, McVicker joined forces with both JK Adams and Willoughby’s Depot Eatery. In addition to arranging a kitchenware prize raffle preorder sweepstakes promotion at JK Adams, McVicker is collaborating with Callo on a unique digital cookbook. The cookbook will include recipes that are mentioned in the narrative of McVicker’s debut novel. “People can also send in their own recipes,” says Callo. “It’s a fun way that people can get involved and feel invested in the project. I love collaborating with people throughout the local community on fun projects like this, and I’m looking forward to finding ways to bring my donuts and shortbread cookies to store shelves beyond Manchester in the near future.”
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