So how long has Pure Bliss been here?
We just celebrated our eighth anniversary of Pure Bliss as a business.
Nick and I both went to Western, and moved down to Bellevue. We didn’t know each other then. We met grocery shopping. We had a lot of mutual friends up here. So once we met and started dating we’d come up here all the time. We would hang out with friends, go up to Mt. Baker, and Galbraith.
When we got married we said, “What are we doing? Bellevue is not for us at all.” So we moved here. And I really wanted to bake. I got a Psych degree but I was really wanting to bake. It was my passion. It’s instant gratification using raw ingredients, blending them together and creating this yummy thing that makes people say, “Ah, this is so good!”
We started Pure Bliss in the first year of our marriage in 2008. At the time I was working for a local wedding designer. Pure Bliss was an off-site catering business only. I was able to get out in the community and understand the wedding market at that time. It was a really good way for Pure Bliss to grow naturally, with low risk.
At that time I was renting a commercial kitchen, which is really labor intensive. So I would bring all of my ingredients, bake, assemble, clean up, pack, and transport everything away. A simple order for a single birthday cake would take four hours. A friend of ours had a cafe in this location–the one we occupy now. What is now our kitchen was his storage are. I approached him and asked, “What is the likelihood that you would lease this space to us as a commercial kitchen?” He loved the idea of his cafe smelling like fresh baked goods all the time.
Productivity shot through the roof. A year later his business had to close. The landlord then asked if we would like to have a storefront. It was the day we got back from Italy where I had been looking at all these storefronts thinking, “I want a shop so bad!” We didn’t know what we were doing but we said yes. We did a massive remodel that took about three months. We’ve had this space for five and a half years but we’ve been a business for eight years.
Wedding cakes are your specialty right?
Our business model is nice and broad in terms of what we can do. We get a lot of foot traffic. People drop in who just want a cookie. Or they want a macchiato—something straightforward. Then there are people who need cupcakes for their daughters 1st birthday this weekend. There are the pre-order special things and then there are the massive events like weddings. We range 125 to 150 a year. June to October is when most of our weddings happen.
What drew you to Bellingham? Was it the outdoors?
Oh, Bellingham is everything we want tied up in a bow.
I grew up in a small town, Steilacoom, on this little tiny peninsula and I thought that everyone had a water view. When I went to Western, it was on the bay and it felt like home to me. I would go to other places like Colorado and I loved them they were missing something–the water.
Bellingham has all the elements that we want and it’s accessible. It takes only 7 minutes from our house to get to the base of Galbraith. We used to go on morning rides before an amazing tiny person came into our lives. But there are other fun things to do with screaming, starving two month old’s in the morning.
Bellingham has everything we wanted. It is also well networked. A trip to the children’s museum turns into an all-afternoon event for us because we run into so many people. I like to say Bellingham has only two degrees of separation.
The culture of this community is great too. Having a small business here has been very eye-opening in understanding what the morals and values of the people who live here is. They want to support small business. They want to come in and give compliments and feedback that help us stick around as a business. Being on the receiving end of that is really valuable. Then me as a consumer—I love going into places like Brandywine, Dianna’s, and Greenhouse because I appreciate the character and the uniqueness that they contribute here.
So what do you wish Bellingham had that’s not here?
Oh, lots of stuff. We live in a broken world. We live about a mile away and my main commute is down Holly Street. I wish we had more resources for homeless people. Homelessness is pretty severe here because we are the last city before the border. I wish that we had a super awesome, streamline transportation system. Most often I ride my bike to work unless I have to pick up or drop off my daughter somewhere. I wish it was a little more hop on and go.
We also have a massively underutilized, old town waterfront. Downtown is awesome. It has character which is a nice way of saying it is a little grungy and I wish it was a little more tidied up. My hope is that the new waterfront will add some sparkle that will ripple up the street a little bit. I mean, I like that I can go anywhere in Bellingham in either jeans and a sweatshirt or a cute dress.
I wish that Bellingham had free parking. In Fairhaven that’s never an issue. I would love to be able to release that burden for our customers.
So where is your favorite spot to go downtown? Let’s say your favorite place to eat then also your favorite spot to just hangout.
It depends on my mood. I really do love Brandywine. I like that I can go and get a yummy sandwich and fries, mac ‘n’ cheese and a salad, or just a beer. It’s dependably good food. Nick and I appreciate D’Anna’s because they make their own pasta. I also like the new place that took over Dashi, Maikham. It’s Laos and Thai food. Old Town Cafe is super kid-friendly and I love that.
In terms of places to go: farmer’s market. I love that in one fell swoop I can get some pretty flowers for my house, some chickens for my freezer, vegetables for the week, and a trinket for my sister’s birthday. There is a great variety. If I just want to parooze I’ll go to the Greenhouse. There are so many good things in there. They actually get birthday cakes from us every month to celebrate their staff. I like that we can walk down the street and support each other.
Who decorated this place?
My husband and our designer friend, Steve. He designs weddings, lives in Seattle and his whole life is like Martha Stewart times a bazillion. He said, “You should do some bold stripes over here, paint the ceiling black to drop it down a little, and I’m gonna sew you some curtains out of fancy silk things from New York.”
My husband, Nick wanted to have concrete counters. Nick is uber-methodical. Everything he does is well-researched and process-oriented. I didn’t see him for six weeks because he had to make them. He had a passion for how things needed to be.
Our friends donated these wonderful chandeliers. We bought things off of Craigslist. We were also able to build some relationships with people in the community who are really good at their trade. Nina Sayers, who just opened up a storefront in Fairhaven, reupholstered our booths for us. And they were from the 70’s so for awhile our number one complaint was, “Your booths suck but I love your desserts.” I can take that because if you continue to buy enough desserts I can fix the booths. [Laughs]
Nick and I fought about the couch for weeks. Nick found this couch on craigslist and said we have to get it. It has to be antique. I said no, the couch has to be leather for easy cleaning. So I said, “Fine. We’ll talk to Steve.” With one sentence Steve changed my mind.
What do people misunderstand about owning a bakery in Bellingham?
We get a lot of auction donation requests—2 to 3 day. They often come to us just a week before but we have all these orders stacked up from people who contacted us five months ago. Cake is our life. We can’t give away free cake all day. My point is we get so many requests that I get backlogged on responding. So what happens is work comes home with me.
What I’m saying is: my job is bigger than cake. It’s a livelihood built on staffing 13 people, my husband, my daughter, my dog and myself. We have perishable goods—ingredients being delivered on a weekly basis that need to be fresh. We are sourcing locally and just our vendor being out of eggs can be a huge deal.
I love it and I like being in charge. It’s completely overwhelming and awful and I cry all the time. But really I like being in charge. It’s fun to be able to come in on a Sunday when were closed and check on things, refine things, and tidy things up a bit. This is our baby.