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Beard Papa’s serves fresh, natural cream puffs and more

Beard Papa’s isn’t a mom-and-pop barber shop, despite its name. It’s a bakery that specializes in cream puffs.

Marc Bryant co-owns the new Beard Papa’s location with his wife, Sawaka Hiraoka. He said the counterintuitive name is just part of the fun concept at the store in Spokane.

Bryant quoted one customer who said, “I came to get a haircut. I left with cream puffs.”

Beginning in Japan in 1999, Beard Papa’s is now an international corporation. They have more than 400 stores, including one of their latest in Spokane.

Beard Papa’s main products are cream puffs, which come in miniature and large sizes. There are different flavored “shells” for each puff, which are baked and then filled with custard. There are a lot of different flavor combinations to choose from.

“They have Build-a-Bear,” Bryant said. “We have build-your-own cream puff.”

Alex and Angela Yang came to the shop with their mother July 18 after doing some summer schoolwork at Kumon, a learning center on Sprague Avenue.

“We come here almost every Tuesday,” Alex said. “It’s the only reason we do our homework.”

Alex had some mini green tea cream puffs, but sister Angela went with something different.

“I get a puff with extra-extra powder, because I love it and it’s yummy,” she said.

The current shell flavors are original, churro, chocolate, dulce de leche, white chocolate, green tea éclair, s’mores, honey butter, Oreo and crunchy cereal.

For fillings, customers can choose between vanilla, chocolate, green tea and Beard Papa’s seasonal filling flavor: peach passion.

The special flavor changes every month. In the past, Bryant said, they’ve had strawberry, ube (a purple yam popular in the Philippines), horchata and Vietnamese coffee. Lately, they’ve been wanting to put a local spin on their cream puffs.

“We’re trying to push for huckleberry,” Bryant said. “But it’s hard.”

Flavors are uniform across all Beard Papa’s stores and are decided by the corporation.

There’s quite a story behind Bryant and wife Hiraoka’s decision to become franchise owners of Beard Papa’s. It begins with the Seattle Mariners baseball team and one of their then-star players: Ichiro Suzuki.

“Around 2011, we went to go see Ichiro play at Safeco field,” Bryant said. “In Seattle, they have a Beard Papa’s kiosk. I’d never had it. My wife is from Japan, she went crazy because she knew all about it. I had one, and I fell in love with it.”

In 2015, Bryant and Hiraoka tried to open a franchise here in Spokane. Beard Papa’s said then that the region didn’t meet their market demographic requirements. Bryant said they reapplied last year, hoping for a different outcome.

“Now, 2023, doors open,” Bryant said.

They officially began baking on Jan. 28. This is their first business as franchisee owners, but Hiraoka has over 16 years of food experience.

They’ve been crafting cream puffs for almost six months now. Bryant said they don’t plan to do anything special to commemorate the anniversary.

“We’re just keeping it going one day at a time,” he said.

Cream puffs are time-intensive. “Everything’s made fresh daily every morning,” Bryant said.

Bryant’s current favorite flavor is the peach passion filling with the crunchy cereal shell.

“I go a little bit crazy,” Bryant said.

For those customers who aren’t interested in cream puffs, Beard Papa’s has other desserts, like crème brûlée and fondant, a small chocolate cake with chocolate filling.

To quench thirst, Beard Papa’s has blended custard drinks in 14 flavors, Italian sodas with optional added Red Bull or ice cream, coffee or tea.

It’s not just the flavors or the name of Beard Papa’s that are a little off-beat.

“It’s unique, it’s a family atmosphere,” Bryant said. “People take photos against the little photo wall. You get to have fun, it’s laid back.”

Paige Van Buren's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.