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News >  Spokane

With grocery stores often out, a Spokane bakery’s flour sales spike

UPDATED: Thu., April 16, 2020

The Grain Shed's Joel Williamson takes patron Elian Carbone's order, silhouetted lower right, during a pickup for customers on Wednesday, April 15, 2020, at The Grain Shed at 1026 E. Newark in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
The Grain Shed's Joel Williamson takes patron Elian Carbone's order, silhouetted lower right, during a pickup for customers on Wednesday, April 15, 2020, at The Grain Shed at 1026 E. Newark in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

At any of the major grocery chains, a 5-pound bag of all-purpose flour will run somewhere between $3 to $4. That is, if you can find it. Some have been willing to pay a bit more and go to unconventional sources: The Grain Shed and Central Food.

Joel Williamson, The Grain Shed co-owner and co-founder, said the bakery and brewery has always offered flour, but they’ve never sold it at this volume. Normally, they would sell a couple bags a week, but lately it’s been about 11 bags a day. The Grain Shed bread sells for $7 a kilo, which roughly translates to 2.2 pounds. In kitchen math, a 5-pound bag would cost about $16.

“It sounds like it’s something harder for folks to find flour,” Williamson said. “It sounds like there’s also a resurgence of home-baking during this time, and so it’s one of the things that we’ve been offering that is all of a sudden really popular.”

The Grain Shed doesn’t sell run-of-the-mill flour. In fact, it sells made-from-its-own-mill flour with locally grown grains, and the varieties it offers could be ideal for the multitudes interested in trying their hand at bread-making since the stay-home order was instituted to help stem the spread of coronavirus.

“We could probably sell more, but we have to keep enough flour for ourselves,” Williamson said.

Two weeks ago, The Grain Shed, at 1026 E. Newark Ave., started offering next-day curbside pickup or delivery directly through its website. Customers can also put some beer, bread or pastries in their cart while they’re at it.

But many were trying bread-making before the pandemic. David Blaine, owner of restaurant and bakery Central Food, said his annual bread-making class never had enough spaces to accommodate the demand. Many of those same people turned to him when they had trouble finding flour.

“We had a pretty good source because we bake a lot,” Blaine said. “We helped out there since it seemed like there was a big demand.”

Blaine, whose flour is sourced from the Shepherd’s Grain co-op, is charging $6 for a 5-pound bag because he said when he posed the idea on Facebook, 5 pounds was the most requested quantity. Central Food, at 1335 W. Summit Parkway in Kendall Yards, is only open four days a week. In that time frame, it has sold about 100 pounds of flour.

“We’re not making money off this,” Blaine said.

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