Just in time for Bastille Day, Coquette Bake Shop & Creamery has stormed Winslow Mall’s outdoor courtyard, armed with flaky croissants and mouthwatering morning buns that will set your best-laid plans of healthy eating afire.
The cart and second-floor bakery, which is tucked in the former Westside Pizza space, opened quietly on June 25.
“We were thinking of announcing the opening, but we had delays getting plumbing and other logistics approved by the city,” co-owner Tristen Childers said. “We didn’t want to publicize the start date before we were ready, so we decided to rely on word of mouth to get the word out.”
Business blew up that first day when a customer raved about the goods on the Bainbridge Islander Facebook group. And with weekly appearances at the farmers market, the Coquette following is steadily growing.
Tristen and her husband, Jerry, moved to the island last September, swapping their farm in Southern Oregon for a home in Rolling Bay with Tristen’s sister, Denika Voget.
“Denika had always dreamed of working on a farm, and I was exhausted,” Tristen said. “Bainbridge is a great fit for our three kids. My parents live two houses down from us, and we’re a ferry ride away from an amazing city.”
Neither Tristen nor Jerry has any culinary training, but they both share a passion for good carbs. A native of San Jose, Tristen has memories of her family cracking into loaves of sourdough at Fisherman’s Wharf. And the couple, who met in 2002 while teaching math and science classes at a Marin County high school, spent a good bit of their courtship taking weekend bike rides to San Francisco bakeries.
When Tristen got pregnant in 2010, the pair quit their jobs and moved to Oregon, to be closer to family. Their initial foray into commercial baking was born out of a rough winter and dissatisfaction with the paltry offerings in their new town.
“We hunkered over the wood stove in freezing weather with nothing to do on the farm,” Jerry said. “And there wasn’t any good bread around.”
So Tristen began to experiment in the kitchen, drawing inspiration from the world-renowned “Tartine” cookbooks by Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt.
Of course, her technical background came in handy.
“Baking is precise,” Jerry said. “Tristen uses a scale to measure ingredients, and she understands the science behind playing with bread and playing with yeast. It’s a natural fit.”
Soon the duo was rolling out loaves from a converted milk parlor on their property and hitting up local farmers markets with their wares, cleverly dubbed creations like “Bread Over Heels” (Country White) and “Rosemarry Me” (Rosemary Sea Salt).
At first, the Childers weren’t sure that they’d open another Coquette on Bainbridge.
“But it’s fun to have a project,” Jerry said. “We have kids, and it’s really important to us that they see us working and endeavoring, involved in entrepreneurial things.”
Although Coquette isn’t popping out loaves of bread at the moment — Tristen figures the folks at Macrina and Essential Baking have got that covered –—the bake shop sells New York-style bagels (“Rolling Baygels”), milk chocolate chip cookies (“Smart Cookies”), baguette sandwiches and other pastries. And they have plans to add ice cream to the menu by the end of the year, as soon as a 3-gallon ice-cream maker and a blast freezer arrive from Italy.
Also in the works is a courtyard dining area modeled after the arrangement at Madrona Lane.
“We don’t have the necessary ambience [for] a hang-out experience,” Jerry said. “But it’d be nice to create a little community of our own there.”
Meanwhile, catch the Coquette cart at 278 Winslow Way from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and at the Bainbridge Island Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.