pace was getting tight at Amber and Joe Owens’ two Spokane bake shops.
Dwindling tabletop area, oven racks and refrigeration shelves at the couple’s two Celebrations Bakery locations had begun to present challenges in fulfilling their many wholesale accounts and custom orders, and keeping up on inventory for walk-in customers.
So when a lease came up in June for the former White Box Café and Pies space on the Division-Ruby corridor just north of downtown Spokane, the couple took the leap. Lilac City Bakery, the latest venture in the Owens’ growing collection of local food businesses, also including Casual Friday Donuts nearby on Division, opened its doors at the end of October.
“We weren’t really trying to expand, it just happened naturally,” Amber Owens says. “We were planning on it being a production facility with minimal retail, but throughout our time there doing construction, we had 15 to 20 people walk up during the day asking for sandwiches, salads and soups. So we thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to do this, because it’s what everyone wants.'”
Lilac City Bakery now serves as the primary baking kitchen for both Celebrations Bakery locations (Garland District and Spokane Valley) as well as a fulfillment hub for the businesses’ many wholesale accounts, supplying area coffee stands and other retailers with pastries and baked treats.
The larger space also allowed for the customer-requested addition of a small café menu offering a selection of sandwiches, salads and paninis ($10 each), as well as a few shareable table plates and appetizers like hummus ($6) and antipasto plates ($12). Breakfast items include a yogurt parfait, housemade oatmeal ($4) and quiche ($6).
The bakery’s lunchtime offerings can be ordered in one of four ways; as a panini, mixed green salad, flatbread or cold sandwich. Paninis and sandwiches both feature the bakery’s new line of artisanal breads, which are also sold by the loaf and include a classic French loaf and a few rotating specialty breads.
“Bread is a natural transition for us,” Owens notes. “We’ll do fun seasonal rotators that are all scratch-made fresh daily, and that is my favorite part about this, because bread has limitless possibilities.”
Rounding out the bakery’s current savory offerings are two soups, one rotating and the daily standard of tomato basil.
Of course, any meal can begin or end with Lilac City’s many sweet treats: cookies, cupcakes, cake pops, donuts (from Casual Friday), quick breads, cheesecake, pie, muffins and scones. Lilac City also serves espresso drinks brewed from Wake Up Call coffee.
In coming weeks, customers will also be able to enjoy a glass of wine or bottle of beer, a move the couple hope will be another draw for customers from across town and the nearby Gonzaga University campus. The bakery is open until 8 pm every day except Sunday (until 6 pm), and serves its savory menu up to closing, along with what’s still available in the pastry case.
“We have a wide range of customers, from older retirees to the young GU students who come in and use the Wi-Fi to do homework for a couple hours,” Owens says. “This shop is unique [compared to our others] because it’s more of a coffee shop vibe, and we love it. We want to open a restaurant someday, so this is good baby steps for that.”
At 2,000 square feet, the new bakery offers nearly twice the space available to Celebrations Bakery’s staff at each of its locations, so the couple moved all production — except for some decorating and finishing work — to the downtown space. Fresh-baked pastries and treats are now delivered daily to both Celebrations.
“The production plan there is minimal, but the business plan is the same — you can still place a custom order and get cupcakes and cookies,” Owens notes.
Core staff from those two bakeries were relocated to the new downtown storefront, which features an open floor plan and viewing area for customers to watch staff at work. Eventually, Owens hopes to also utilize that big workspace for baking classes.
Lilac City Bakery was designed with a contemporary, rustic feel, featuring finished cement floors and repurposed fence slats lining the pastry case and an accent wall. Owens also took pieces from her extensive collection of vintage bakeware and utensils to decorate a focal wall near the bakery’s front counter.
“I get a bundt pan and a cupcake pan for Christmas every year, and everyone has this vintage stuff that they give me,” Owens says. “I was fantasizing about that bakeware wall, and so I just nailed them to the wall.”
The couple did all of the work themselves to remodel the space over this past summer.