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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane vegan favorite Boots Bakery finds new home, community at commercial kitchen space

Boots Bakery owner Alison Collins is photographed in January in her new space at Thrive International. The new Boots Bakery has opened in the Saranac Commons after moving out of its home across the street at the end of last year.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

A vegan-friendly eatery that recently moved from its long-time downtown Spokane location is another step closer to reopening.

Boots Bakery & Lounge has found a new commercial kitchen space in the Thrive Center kitchen, a former Quality Inn converted by the nonprofit Thrive International to house mainly Ukrainian refugees.

Boots Bakery moved out of its original location at 24 W. Main Avenue late last year. Owner Alison Collins quickly put together a plan to move across the street to the Saranac Commons, an open-floor vendor marketplace, and plans to open in February. However, the new space isn’t big enough to produce the vegan and gluten-free pastas, salads and bakery items that make Boots popular.

“We put feelers out everywhere because the issue with us and having a kitchen is we have to have a clean kitchen that other people aren’t using gluten in,” Collins said. “So that’s where we ran into troubles.”

An employee mentioned the problem to a friend who knew that Thrive wasn’t using their commercial kitchen.

The Thrive Center opened last June in the former Quality Inn at 110 E. 4th Avenue. The former hotel houses families who fled the Ukraine war, with the nonprofit providing them a variety of services, including help with immigration paperwork and connecting them to job opportunities.

Collins reached out, and it quickly became clear the kitchen was a perfect fit.

“It’s immense,” Collins said, noting the kitchen at Boots’ prior location was a bit small.

Collins opened Boots just over 10 years ago after eating a vegan diet for a number of years. At the time, vegan baked goods were hard to come by, she said.

“I had done a lot of research and baking for myself because at that time the options were dry granola bars,” Collins said.

Her following grew quickly, and Boots became a neighborhood staple, with some customers stopping in every morning for Collins’ pumpkin waffles.

Collins and her team started setting up at Thrive a couple weeks ago and still have a few weeks of work ahead to complete the certifications and licensing requirements to open the commercial kitchen. During that time, she’s testing out new recipes.

One employee is working on a vegan, gluten-free bread for sandwiches, among other ideas.

“It’s time to stop and look at what new things we could have,” Collins said.

She’s also offering job training to Thrive residents.

“Just giving people an opportunity to learn a skill and then be able to go get a job,” Collins said. “We’ll do barista training, baking training, savory, I mean all of it, all industry.”

For Thrive Center, having Boots move in has deepened the connection with the Spokane community and made the massive hotel feel more like a home, said Anna Bondarenko, assistant manager at the center .

“I love the feeling … the smell of home,” Bondarenko said. “I think it’s wonderful.”

For Thrive residents, it’s a chance to connect with Spokanites in a safe and familiar environment, she said. One resident, living at Thrive with her three children, has struggled to find a place to belong, Bondarenko said.

But she was the first to volunteer to help out at Boots, Bondarenko said.

“It’s a treat. It’s a gift,” Bondarenko said of having Boots join Thrive. “It’s becoming a very vibrant type of community place.”