Once shaken, now they’re baking

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 10, 2011

Long, difficult road leads to Sawyer’s Artisan Bakery

Some dreams just don’t come true.

That is what Jennifer and Matt Sawyer thought three years ago when they junked a giant tote packed with everything they gathered during years of planning for their bakery and treat shop.

“Demographics, fabric, furniture, floor layouts, menus … you name it. I threw it all away and said, ‘It’s never going to happen,’ ” Jennifer Sawyer says.

The past couple of years had been difficult for the couple as they struggled to raise a blended family of four boys in Davenport, Wash.

Jen left her job at a Spokane real estate firm in 2008 just before her former boss was arrested and charged with crimes related to the alleged possession of stolen property.

She struggled to find the right job, while Matt traded duties as a stay-at-home dad to go to school at the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy at Spokane Community College.

They made candy and sold it at church to help pay the mortgage. Matt worked for a while at the local grocery store. Despite their efforts, they filed for personal bankruptcy.

In the summer of 2009, they baked and sold bread at the Davenport’s Pioneer Days celebration, all the while dreaming about a bakery and treat shop that no one would loan them the money to open.

By fall, Jen Sawyer landed a new job in the office at Keller Williams, The Legacy Group and settled back into life with full-time work. It left few extra hours for bread and candymaking, so when she cleaned out the garage that summer she tossed that plastic tote full of ideas and hope.

But when it was time to volunteer for Pioneer Days again, they agreed – baking 92 loaves of bread, 80 pizzas, 19 dozen doughnuts, five dozen puff pastries and making 82 box lunches to raise $1,200 for the annual town festival.

It was what happened next that restored their faith in dreaming: One of their customers casually offered to become an investor in their bakery.

That was last summer. The Sawyers didn’t act on the offer right away. It seemed too good to be true, despite other signs that the time was right; that everything they were praying for was coming to them.

When they were approached by a company looking for a wholesale contract for breads, they decided to crunch the numbers one more time.

“We ran home and worked up a spreadsheet … then pulled the green scrap of paper with the potential investor’s number on it off of the wall,” Jen Sawyer says.

There were more surprises in the next few months. The investor, who wants to remain anonymous, could only loan $50,000, but the Sawyers calculated that they needed $70,000 to get up and running. On the day they went to sign the promissory note, that investor surprised them by finding a second person to make up the difference.

“They had found someone else, who had never met us, who knew nothing about us, to give us $20,000,” Jen Sawyer says. “When we signed the note and got the check it was the first time that we met this person. These people are angels.”

With the angels’ help, Sawyer’s Artisan Bakery opened in February. They found a location just off Davenport’s main street on Sixth Street that was the home of the Model Restaurant and Bakery some 100 years ago.

Construction on the bakery took longer than expected, so at first Matt Sawyer had to haul his bread, pastries and doughnuts through the alley – not to mention the deep snow – from a nearby commercial kitchen.

Since then, they’ve settled in to the rhythm of the daily baking. During a recent visit, the fans cooling the bakery also served to bring the smell of fresh baked breads into the street outside the bakery, 508 Sixth St.

Jen Sawyer works at the real estate firm in Spokane each day. Matt Sawyer laminates dough and bakes all morning, cranking out turnovers, filled pastries, doughnuts, cookies, brownies and an array of breads from scratch.

Some of their more popular loaves ($5-$7) include Matt’s sourdough; the Loaded Greek, which is filled with balsamic vinegar, kalamata olives, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and Italian seasoning; and Cheesy Pleasey, stuffed with feta, Gorgonzola, asiago, Parmesan and cheddar cheeses.

The Sawyers asked Belle Petty to join the bakery, bringing her creative cakes, cupcakes and treats into the case. Petty, who formerly worked at Stephanie’s Isn’t it Sweet in Spokane, makes beautiful birthday cakes, cupcakes topped with whimsical frogs, delicate floral designs and other beautiful buttercream creations.

They’re thankful and humbled by the customers who come through the door. So far, it has been just enough to help them get rolling on the long-delayed dream.

Sawyer’s Artisan Bakery is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon. Call ahead for special orders or to make sure they’ll have something you want.

The bread and goodies also are available at the Red Barn Farmers Market in Davenport on Fridays, 3 to 7 p.m. during the season.

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