For the past 40 years, Blue Heron Bakery has provided the area with delicious natural food. Since they opened in 1977, some aspects of the business have stayed the same, such as their strong sense of community and high-quality ingredients. However, the bakery has also seen many exciting changes lately.
Two years ago last June, they moved locations from Mud Bay to their current location on Harrison, next to Don Juan’s Mexican Kitchen & Cantina. This allowed them to expand to accommodate a cafe, which in turn led to increasing the variety of foods available from Blue Heron.
Sitting in Blue Heron Bakery’s outdoor patio seating, owner Evan Price explains how his business has grown since their move. Their primary motivation for the change was the ability to have a cafe, where guests can enjoy freshly-made breakfast, lunch and light dinner items. Along with meals and bakery items, the cafe now has a coffee bar where they serve Blue Heron Blend dark roast espresso as well as Olympia Roasting Company’s Big Truck Blend. Another addition was an ice cream bar where Blue Heron’s team creates ice cream using their house-made flavor mixes with a base ice cream from Sunshine Dairy. On top of all that, they also now boast a toast bar, grab ‘n’ go sandwiches, fresh pastries and two soups of the day.
Besides simply serving food that is healthy and wholesome, Blue Heron provides many options for those with alternative diets. Blue Heron Bakery granola, which is distributed across the entire west coast, is sweetened with whole fruit, making it both delicious and vegan. In the cafe, their two soups of the day always have vegetarian or vegan and gluten-free options. They also always stock a gluten-free pizza option. The pizza dough is a special blend of four flours, including tapioca flour, that was developed at Blue Heron Bakery. Two other recent gluten-free additions to their menu are a gluten-free focaccia bread and gluten-free loaves.
“We have the best gluten-free pizzas. I’m not big on gluten-free, and even I like it,” says Evan. “People are mad about it!” He added that one would not immediately know that their vegan menu items are vegan, either. The vegan peanut butter spelt cookie is one of the most popular ones for people of all diets. Another common favorite at the cafe is the tempeh reuben, which has the option to be made vegan. It comes with a spicy slaw, or a house sauerkraut, and a house-made marinade.
So, what makes their food taste so good? Evan attributes it to hand-made food crafted with high-quality, natural ingredients. “We make great buttermilk-blueberry pancakes. I had pancakes this morning. We make them with a little bit of spelt flour and maple syrup. None of that corn syrup stuff,” he shares.
Blue Heron Bakery started 40 years ago during the back-to-the-land time of 1977. All sharing a birth year, Blue Heron Bakery, the Olympia Farmer’s Market and the Olympia Food Co-Op were all products of this counter-culture food movement and continue to bring wholesome, delicious food to Olympia today. Like their tagline states, Blue Heron Bakery was “Natural Before it was Fashionable.”
Aside from carrying their products at their own cafe, Blue Heron Bakery sells to many favorite local retailers, such as Jay’s Farm Stand, the Olympia Food Co-Op, the Olympia Farmers’ Market and more. They also donate to many local organizations such as GRuB, Thurston County Food Bank, SafePlace, and EGYHOP.
Local natural food stores often have a strong sense of community around their business and Blue Heron is no exception. Evan recounted to me how the cafe creates a warm atmosphere with their employees and customers from regulars to new-timers.
Part of Blue Heron Bakery’s community vibe is created by their weekly music event called “Sunday Sounds” hosted at the cafe. At these events, a featured artist plays from 4:00-5:00 p.m. followed by an open mic from 5:00-7:00 p.m. The performances are primarily musical in style but have included poetry and spoken word as well.
When asked about the cafe’s upcoming 40th birthday, Evan says he is not entirely sure of the exact date the bakery opened 40 years but says, “Late October or early November, we’re planning a party here, so folks can stay tuned for that.”
Celebrate 40 years of Blue Heron Bakery by stopping by for a delectable meal or pick up a loaf of their bread at your favorite natural food store. The cafe is open 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., seven days a week at 4419 Harrison Ave NW. Reach them at 360-866-2253.