Shuttered Bell Street Bakery reopens to public in Sequim

Baker Russ Lewis of Bell Street Bakery in Sequim displays a tray of lavender snickerdoodles. (Patricia Morrison Coate/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Baker Russ Lewis of Bell Street Bakery in Sequim displays a tray of lavender snickerdoodles. (Patricia Morrison Coate/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

SEQUIM — The Bell Street Bakery, which was closed in 2012, has a new lease on life through artisan bread baker Russ Lewis, an October 2015 transplant to Sequim from upper New York state.

The bakery at 173 W. Bell St. opened for retail sales Saturday after a soft opening during Friday’s Art Walk.

Hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Lewis is excited.

“The people of Sequim are so, so nice, so different than back East,” he said.

“I feel my stress has lifted and feel, ‘Wow, I made the right decision.’ The kindness from complete strangers has been overwhelming, to say the least.”

Hiring in May

He will begin hiring in early May, Lewis said. He isn’t sure now how many he will eventually hire but figures it will be about four.

“I want people I can train because sometimes, no experience is the best experience,” he said.

“I just want someone with the willingness to work hard.”

Twelve employees lost their jobs when the bakery, which had baked goods sold to grocers and restaurants across the North Olympic Peninsula, was closed.

Then-owner Andre Barritelle said the shop was closed because of hard economic times and a partnership with the owners of The Garden Bistro that did not work out.

One of Lewis’ friends moved to Sequim last June, saw that the bakery was for sale and connected him with the owners while Lewis vacationed on the Peninsula with his wife, Linda, and son Silas.

“We found out about the bakery and made a major life change overnight like flipping a switch. It’s do-or-die for us; we have no choice but to make it work,” Lewis said.

The 45-year-old Lewis is no stranger to baking or owning and operating bakeries.

After more than 25 years honing his craft in Pennsylvania, Vermont and New York while working for others and also owning and operating two bakeries, Lewis knows a thing or two about what to do with flour, yeast, salt and water — and myriad other tasty ingredients.

The state-of-the-art bakery is, Lewis said, “a baker’s dream, so my dream is coming true for me.”

Currently, Lewis is renting both the bakery and the adjacent retail store, where he envisions customers leisurely enjoying coffee with his made-from-scratch pastries, including raspberry streusel and maple walnut sticky buns dripping with authentic New England maple syrup.

Gluten-free

He will set up a separate, contained mixing area that’s gluten-free so there will be no cross-contamination for gluten-free breads and pastries.

Lewis said he knows the bakery is outfitted like a big city bakery for volume but is encouraged because he already has made deals with Sunny Farms and Nash’s Farm Store to carry his artisan breads.

“I’m more than pleased with the feedback,” Lewis said.

“My specialties are European crusty breads, like hearth breads, that are baked directly on the hearth or stone in the oven and not in a pan,” Lewis said.

“I make toasted almond flax, maple walnut whole wheat, Challah [a Jewish braided bread] and Portuguese sweet breads plus spinach, onion and mushroom French bread and jalapeño cheddar wheat.

“I make and sell a lot of whole grain and multi-grain breads, and another specialty is fruit breads, such as cranberry, cinnamon, raisin French bread. That’s just a small repertoire of what I’ll have.”

Made from scratch

Lewis explained, “Artisan breads are made from scratch with no mixes.

“The shape varies slightly due to the many variables in the factors of artisan baking. They also have a long fermenting time, three to six hours, to develop the flavor.”

Asked if he will make New York-style bagels, Lewis said he knows how and would like to but he doesn’t have a large kettle to boil them in. Maybe down the road, he said.

Lewis said wistfully that his family, some 3,000 miles away in upper New York state, will join him in early April. In the meantime, he’s meeting as many Sequim residents as he can and intends to become involved in the community.

________

Patricia Morrison Coate is a special sections editor with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at pcoate@sequimgazette.com.

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