NAUGATUCK — Despite being filled with World War II memorabilia and artifacts, the borough’s newest cafe doesn’t have the hushed feel of a museum. Instead, with patrons chatting and music playing, it comes off as a living exhibition.
Helmets, vests, a uniform, and even a Japanese flag that is riddled with bullet holes and was found on a battlefield are all part of the decor at the Bom Bay Cafe at 413 North Main St.
The top of the tables display photos of, or taken by, World War II soldiers. Most of the photos were brought to the cafe by Naugatuck residents, said Bom Bay Cafe owner Edward Hughes, adding having the photos donated by residents brings a personal touch to the cafe.
“I didn’t want people to just come in here, sit down, and look at pictures of World War II heroes. Now you are coming in and having a cup of Joe with Uncle Joe,” Hughes said.
Hughes, who also owns Edible Dreams Custom Cakes next door to the cafe, opened Bom Bay Cafe, fittingly, on Memorial Day.
In addition to baked treats made at the cake shop, the cafe sells coffee, breakfast sandwiches and ice cream. Hughes plans to expand the menu slightly in the future to include additional breakfast foods like waffles and French toast.
Hughes said the creation of the cafe was spurred on by the fact that he needed more room to make the items he sells out of the Bommer Truck, a food truck with a World War II theme he uses to sell deserts at events.
“When we sent [the truck] out to events we didn’t have enough room in the kitchen to work on cakes and finish the product for the truck,” said Hughes, a Naugatuck native who now lives in Waterbury.
However, the bakery for the truck didn’t take up the whole space where the cafe is, so Hughes said he wanted to bring something unique to the Union City area of Naugatuck. With a barbeque restaurant opening soon near the cafe and Linden Park nearby, he’s hoping to get more people out in the community.
“I’m trying to get the community back out here, walking around, and enjoying what we have here,” Hughes said.
As for the World War II theme, it was an easy decision for the 40-year-old Hughes.
“I feel like those guys, if they didn’t step up and do what they did, the world wouldn’t be what it is today,” Hughes said. “It was an amazing generation. I thought I would do this to keep that spirit alive and use it as a learning tool. The younger generation can come in and learn that, if those guys didn’t do what they did, the world could be a different place than it is today.”
Hughes is also trying to feature food and beverages sold by local or veteran-owned companies, like ice cream from the Big Dipper in Prospect and coffee from the Salt Lake City-based Black Rifle Coffee Company, a company owned and operated by a veteran.
As World War II moves further away in history and veterans that served in the war continue to die, Hughes said it’s important to continue to honor them.
“Those guys are starting to fade out and this is a way for me to keep their spirit alive,” Hughes said.