November 9, 2018

WWII-themed Naugatuck cafe courts veterans

Photo | Nicole Zappone
Photo | Nicole Zappone
Patrons at the Bom Bay Cafe counter.
Photo | Nicole Zappone
World War II-themed murals on the walls at the Bom Bay Cafe in Naugatuck.

Every day is Veterans Day at Naugatuck's Bom Bay Cafe, a World War II-themed eatery at 413 North Main St. that has gained a loyal following since its opening on Memorial Day this year.

Veterans coming from as far as Pennsylvania have been drawn to the cafe's decor and the 1940s soundtrack, and some have been so moved by the tribute they have even shed tears.

"The World War II generation was one of the greatest," owner Ed Hughes said. "If they didn't stand up, the world wouldn't be as great today."

Throughout the cafe, you find WWII memorabilia along with furniture and fixtures designed and built by Hughes himself. Murals of WWII-era aircraft and rows of jeeps line the walls and tables are fashioned to look like 1940s bombs. An olive-drab trunk sits in one corner with folded GI uniforms and a rucksack piled on top.

Hughes, a Naugatuck resident who comes from three generations of bakers, said he wanted to add something special to his community. He wanted to open a place where people could get together and have a good time while remembering the sacrifices of our military.

Growing up, Hughes learned to bake from his grandmother. His father, a chef, continued the family's culinary legacy. In addition to Bom Bay Cafe, Hughes also runs Edible Dreams, a bakery next door. Since Bom Bay and Edible Dreams share a kitchen, you will see a range of treats at both locations.

One of the most popular items is the "bommer," a combination of a cupcake and a donut. Flavors range from apple cider and pumpkin around Thanksgiving to gingerbread, eggnog and hot chocolate at Christmas.

Breakfast at Bom Bay draws the biggest crowds as the cafe staff serves Belgian waffles, pancakes, eggs, breakfast sandwiches and more. "The coffee, from Nitro Brew in New York, is 100-percent natural and it's stronger than Red Bull," said Hughes.

In the future, Hughes plans to expand his cafes into VA hospitals. New Haven and Newington are places that are being considered. Each of the cafes in the VA hospitals will be various war themes.

"I want to bring the cafe to the veterans, and it's already in motion," he said.

In honor of Veterans Day on Monday, Bom Bay cafe is offering free breakfast sandwiches and coffee for all veterans. Plans for the future include an event for veterans to tell their stories in person.

As time goes by, the Greatest Generation is passing into history and memories of World War II are fading, but Hughes wants to keep the recognition alive.

"I want to cherish our brave veterans while they're here," Hughes said.

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