If you ever find yourself in Paris, strolling down the streets of “La Rive Gauche,” the Left Bank of the Seine River, take a look around. You will find Parisians stopping off at the “boucherie” (the butcher shop) to purchase meat, popping into the “boulangerie” (bakery) for a baguette, or visiting a “patisserie” (pastry shop) to grab a tart or croissant. “There are small specialty shops all over France,” explains Gary Potter, “and the idea is you take your purchase with you.” Potter has brought that idea to his traditional patisserie right here in Olympia.
Step into Potter’s 4th Avenue Left Bank Pastry and you will notice two display cases filled with a variety of gorgeous pastries. While there are not tables to linger and lick crumbs from your fingers or sip and espresso, Potter wants people to stop in and pick up his traditionally crafted pastries, then take them home to share with friends and family, to work to share with coworkers, or out and about to enjoy in our beautiful city.
The offerings at Left Bank Pastry are thoughtfully and specifically created, following traditional French pastry methods. You won’t find American treats like chocolate chip cookies and cherry pie, but you will find the best chocolate croissants in the county (or maybe even the state).
Potter finds success staying in his niche, making traditional French pastries the French way – with real butter, all from scratch. While other bakeries may rely on shortcuts – what many in the business call “bucket baking” – Left Bank Pastry’s baked goodies rely on quality ingredients including one key ingredient – time.
“You can make a decent croissant in three hours, but if you want a really good croissant you need 18 hours,” he says. At Potter’s shop, a crew of 12 works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with one to two bakers in the kitchen working at any given time. This relentless schedule ensures Paris-worthy pastries, fresh each and every day.
Opening Left Bank Pastry was a risk. In 2006, Potter, his wife Rochelle and their two-year-old daughter uprooted their lives in Washington State and moved to France so that Potter could study at Le Cordon Bleu. It was there that he found an appreciation for the Left Bank, the historically artistic side of Paris, which was once home and inspiration to artists like Picasso, Matisse and Hemingway.
It seems that the Left Bank was an inspiration to Potter as well. After study in Paris, Potter returned home to Washington, settling in Olympia. After working for other local bakeries, he opened Left Bank Pastry.
Since then, he has been building a customer base year after year, one flaky croissant or enchanting tart at a time. Three years ago, they opened up a stall at the Olympia Farmer’s Market.
The Potter’s 4th Avenue storefront celebrates its one year anniversary this spring, but Potter admits opening the shop hasn’t been a huge adjustment. With a loyal customer base and skilled baking crew they were able to “hit the ground running doing what we already do.”
The shop offers a number of delicious pastries from simple butter croissants to savory quiche to fancy tarts. There is a treat for everyone, each a Parisian inspired work of art.
The kouign-amann, a sweet and salty pastry made with croissant dough, is one of their best sellers. Macarons are a hit, as well as the sacher, which is a delightful little chocolate cake – and both of these are gluten-free. Other favorites include subtly sweet almond croissants, light and crunchy cinnamon croissants, mouth-watering chocolate eclairs and gorgeous lemon meringue tarts.
Plans are in the works to offer coffee soon, something warm to wash down the flaky crusts and creamy fillings. And while the Potters haven’t ruled out expanding, but adore their tiny, 4th Avenue space and are there to stay.
If you haven’t visited Left Bank Pastry’s storefront or market stall, you still may have tasted one of their wholesale pastries available at coffee shops, select markets and cafes around the area. But, if you want to experience the best variety and freshest selections you must stop by their shop or Olympia Farmers Market stall.
Left Bank Pastry is located at 1001 4th Avenue in Olympia. Reach them by phone at 360-350-0669. You can also find Left Bank on Facebook and Instagram posting beautifully enticing photos of their latest pastry masterpieces.