Evan Price, Owner of Blue Heron Bakery
Blue Heron Bakery
Natural before it was Fashionable
Small bakeries across America are facing the enormous challenge of trying to survive and diversify in a changing culture where local community businesses are getting squeezed out by giant corporate models.
Even progressive Olympia is not immune to this corporate viral takeover where giants like Starbucks and chains like Panera inhabit the West Side. Thankfully there are still pioneers in our community like Evan Price, owner of the Blue Heron Bakery who for over 27 years has stayed true to local sustainable business practices. Blue Heron Bakery, now 37 years strong, has been a local cornerstone bakery at the Co-op and in the Olympia community, supporting organic and “natural before it was fashionable.” Evan is dedicated to sourcing goods locally and to supporting the local economy in Olympia, reflecting one of the many ways his ethics have been integrated with his business practices since day one.
Starting in 1984 as a theatre major at TESC, Evan began working at the collectively managed bakery co-op after graduating. Along with acting, he enjoyed cooking, politics and ecological agriculture. Preparing to become a father and unsure of his future, Evan stepped into the bakery as the “granola guy.” It was then that his interests coalesced and his heron wings began to take shape. Regardless of the bakery having back taxes owed to the IRS, Evan worked tenaciously to pay off the debt, thus revealing his responsible nature. The owner of the pottery studio next door saw this and entrusted him to make a more permanent nest by taking over the lease of the space on Mud Bay. This is the space where Blue Heron flew from for over 36 years, and currently where wholesale shipments still are nested. With reverence, Evan refers to a time when the dough was hand mixed. Even with large electric mixers, the Heron is still very much a ‘human to product’ type of business. “As businesses get bigger, there is more automation and less ‘creator to consumer’,” he mused. In some cases with big bread companies, the only time humans are actually handling the bread is at the time of loading and unloading the bread trays.
Blue Heron Bakery uses primarily organic ingredients in all of their baking and food creations. This is quite an outstanding feat, especially when organic flour more than doubled in price when the recession hit. Regardless of price, Evan has been adamant on good quality ingredients and supporting the natural food movement. The flour used for baking is grown and harvested using a “no-till” method. Some consider this method “beyond organic” due to the specialty nature with which the grain is handled.
Shepherd’s Grain, the no-till wheat company where Blue Heron sources their flour, has farmers based out of Spokane, Washington. Their direct-seeding practice and crop rotation preclude the use of chemicals for pests. Shepherd’s Grain also assures that no GMO wheat is included in their flours, and you can find out more about the company’s sustainability practices at www.shepherdsgrain.com. “Beyond its ability to create a more natural soil that retains nutrients and water, prevents soil erosion, and compacts less, the no-till technique offers a number of immediate financial advantages to the farmer.”
Mother Earth News May/June 1984, Frances Moore Lappé said, “Every aspect of our lives is, in a sense, a vote for the kind of world we want to live in,” and the way in which Evan runs his business speaks beautifully of his dedication to this statement.
In addition to his dedication to sourcing as local as possible with organic and high quality ingredients, keeping personal human connections is another way that has proven Blue Heron to be a supportive Olympia workplace. Evan spoke with fondness about the Herons (previous and current workers) that have explored other life opportunities, working there while also creating other ventures, be they artistic, business or otherwise. Evan’s dedication and perseverance toward a people-centered business has continued to build an even more resilient nest in our community. This year saw the Blue Heron Bakery expansion, offering a newly remodeled bakery and café full with breakfast, lunch and dinner options! Not to mention, it likely has the coolest Open Mic Night in town.
No surprise, the new space is an artisan creation, designed in partnership with Dennis Lyon Design. Subtle touches not to miss include the original Blue Heron sign and cedar siding from the location on Mud Bay, Evan’s daughter’s first gift of art framed, as well as well-loved baking trays hand pounded into wall sconces.
Since great blue herons rarely venture far from bodies of water, the Bakery flew just a mile or so from its original roost on Mud Bay to the 4400 block of Harrison Ave on the Westside of Olympia, next door to Jay’s Farmstand and not far from Kaiser Road. The new bakery and deli location is open every day from 7am to 8pm.
Another incredible offering to our already wonderful community, the deli offers vegan, gluten free and meat options for eat in or take out. Breakfast items include a daily toast with an array of spreads made with the Bakery’s delicious daily baked bread and frittatas. Lunch features a house Minestrone and soup of the day offering, as well as a variety of fresh and nutritious salads, like their sweet potato quinoa and cranberry salad. Dinner includes wood fired pizza, lasagna and a gluten free potato crusted chicken pot pie. Homemade ice cream is the newest of dessert offerings and has been the talk of the town throughout the hot dry summer we just had. Along with the ice cream, an extensive daily baked treat menu using whole grain and natural sweeteners is still offered, including the famous Mud Bay bars, raw & gluten free ‘bee bee’ round treats, spelt chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, and chocolate and blueberry turnovers. Bread, coffee and cold drinks are still available, and there is a variety of grab & go salads for easy take out.
With the new location, the Blue Heron has become an even better community meet-up space. There is plenty of room to sit and read with a snack and a hot drink or meet a friend for a whole meal. Another new exciting feature of the expansion is an Open Mic Night, “Sunday Sounds” from 4-7:30pm. Evan mentions that the music really keeps him going. (He is a founding and continuing member of the band Mud Cat).
So if you find yourself with a hankering to support one of Olympia’s finest bakeries and deli that’s been a forerunner in the local and natural food movement, or if you simply want some good grub (& tunes), come check out the newly expanded Blue Heron Bakery!
It is open everyday from 7am to 8pm. Located at 4419 Mud Bay Rd on Olympia’s Westside and on the web at www.blueheronbakery.com
You can also find their products here at both Olympia Food Co-ops. (Also, look for their granola in co-ops and other natural food stores throughout Washington and Oregon).
Here’s to celebrating the essence and uniqueness of Olympia, showing our support for a local business that sustains the natural foods movement, and simply enjoying some delicious fresh baked food! See you at the Open Mic on Sunday!
By Marie Poland, Staff Member