Maltby Cafe celebrates 25 years of homemade food and service

  • Written by Shannon Michael, Features Writer

Maltby employeesPhoto by Gary Hilsie. Maltby Café employees and their families gathered recently to celebrate the cafe’s 25th anniversary. Twenty-five years ago, a small group of young women who’d met and become friends when they joined a soccer league, liked stopping in at the Maltby Café for breakfast after playing soccer.

Tana Baumler mentioned to her friends that the restaurant was a gold mine in terms of location and ambience, but it lacked a good layout and had poor customer service.

Then, one day in February 1988, Sandra Albright was having lunch there when she noticed a newly placed “for sale” sign. After several discussions and with no business plan in place, the group of friends bought the restaurant on June 15, 1988.

Fast forward 25 years, and that small gold mine of a restaurant tucked into the basement of an old school gymnasium has firmly become one of the best restaurants in America, as evidenced by the slew of awards and accolades that adorn the wall just inside the entrance and the steady flow of customers.

What had been a restaurant with a turnover of five owners and five different names the preceding five years became a national treasure for foodies from all over the world in search of the perfect home-style breakfast, brunch or lunch.

Of the Maltby Café’s many awards, three stand out to co-owner Baumler: the American Egg Board’s awards for best in Washington and best in the U.S.A.; making the list for USA Today’s ranking of Top Five Breakfasts in America; and being honored with Best Breakfast by Evening Magazine’s Best of Western Washington for 16 of the last 18 years. When so many restaurants fail, it is worth noting what has made the café a success for a quarter of a century. It began with the perfect collaboration of three friends, each with unique strengths they brought to the business.

While Baumler had previous restaurant and cooking experience – she’d owned a pie making business in Montana before moving to Washington, Sandra Albright brought strong retail management experience, and a love of gourmet cooking and entertaining. Barbara Peter, who worked for the Northshore School District’s payroll department at the time, had accounting and bookkeeping experience.

“It worked because we’re each different personalities with different strengths,” said Baumler, adding, “We had totally different backgrounds that all came together. The three of us have done a great job of working together and maintaining our friendships.”

Next were not only assembling an outstanding team of employees but also learning how to be good bosses. Baumler explained that they make a point of providing some of the highest wages in the industry in the state, coupled with good benefits.

“We found that the more we offer, the happier employees we have,” she said. Happy employees love their job, and that’s reflected in the way they treat their customers, she explained. In turn, the café’s employees have remained steadfastly loyal, with many of them working for Baumler and her partners since they opened in 1988.

Then came the menu. When the café first opened, customers had 10 menu items to choose from for breakfast and lunch that had been served by the previous owner. Within a month, Albright and Baumler began evolving the menu to tailor it more for a Northwest style of cuisine.
Now, the menu has well over 100 options for ravenous breakfast, brunch or lunch eaters. Still served, though, from that original list of 10 choices are the almost salad-plate-sized cinnamon rolls created by baker Scott Berry, an original employee when they first opened. While Berry is no longer with the café, his cinnamon rolls remain his legacy.

“We quickly realized we had to create menu items you can’t get anywhere else. For example, our bread pudding is made from our cinnamon rolls,” said Baumler.

Customers will also say it’s the Maltby-style Swedish pancakes, the Maltby bar cookies, the cinnamon rolls, plus several other menu items that make the café unique.

Baumler also takes pride in her staff’s unwavering commitment to customer service. “The wait staff love their customers! They get worried when one of their regulars doesn’t show up,” she said. She also taught them the importance of anticipating a customer’s needs so that a customer hopefully never leaves feeling unsatisfied.

Because of that level of customer service accompanied with outstanding food, the café  has had the luxury of customer word-of-mouth to promote the business. “Our customers are our best advertising,” Baumler said, adding, “We don’t advertise except locally to support local weekly newspapers.”

Customer raves led the Maltby Café to enjoy increased sales every single day of the first five years it was open. It wasn’t just the good customer service that made customers talk. It was the food.

While certain aspects of the restaurant have changed over the years, key elements have remained the same. Most of the items on the menu are homemade in the restaurant, including the biscuits, cinnamon rolls and homemade hamburger buns, the freezer jam and salad dressings, all the pies and desserts, and the meats that are roasted to perfection and the soup stock that is made from scratch daily.
And while they don’t classify themselves as a true farm-to-table restaurant, Baumler said they try to buy as much of their ingredients as locally as they can.

Baumler loves to travel, and so several menu items reflect experiences she’s had in her journeys. Order tea at Maltby Café and one finds a shallow, rectangular basket brought to the table with a teapot, cup and saucer, accompanied by a lemon drop candy, just like she experienced when she was 19 years old and traveling with a girlfriend in England. At the time, she told her girlfriend, “If I ever have a restaurant, I’m going to have these tea baskets.” She kept her word.

While consistency of food fare has remained the same, some things have changed. When Baumler first opened the restaurant she often had her daughter riding in a backpack while she worked. That daughter, Keesha Laws, who was two and a half years old at the time, now helps with waitressing, managing, and the books.

Baumler’s daughter, Tessa Curtis, who was five when the café opened, became the chief financial officer when co-owner Peter retired.


To celebrate the café’s milestone anniversary, the co-owners held a celebration for all their guests, employees, suppliers, vendors and the local community on June 30. Five hundred people attended the event, Baumler said. 

“We had Maltby Pizza serving pizza, Snoqualmie Ice Cream served gelato, and Canon del Sol, the first Hispanic winery in Washington, served two wines,” she said.

It was a nice way to give back to the community that has supported the three friends who took a chance on a “for sale” sign all those years ago and began what has become one of the best restaurants in America right in our own backyard.

Moving body leads to a healthier life

  • Written by Derek Johnson, Sports Writer

Sandy Laurence wishes more people felt as good as she does on a daily basis. She yearns to share what she knows.   

As a track and field coach at Woodinville High, along with years of experience in competitive sports and studying nutrition, Laurence has stockpiled wisdom. Her wisdom centers on competing at a high level while getting the most out of one’s body.  

"I love how I feel at the end of a good workout," she said. "And I love that I get to see things that I think other people don’t get to see on a long run — especially early in the morning or late in the evening. Sometimes in the evening I’ll get to see birds come home to roost. Maybe I’ll hear certain bird calls that I know I don’t hear during the day. You see the little creatures trying to find their ways home. If I see something interesting, I stop."

In the manic rush of modern day society, people often feel overwhelmed and stressed out. They feel they lack the time and willpower to commit to an exercise program. But Laurence urges patience and common sense. 

"If I were to boil everything down to a bottom line sentence, anytime when you’re training over 10 seconds, you’re training your body to create more mitochondria," she said, referring to the membrane-enclosed structures that generate most of a cell’s energy supply in our bodies. "And you’re training to create more muscle fiber contraction proteins. Those don’t take very long to make.

"But people don’t have enough patience to do it," she said. "So they’ll go out and run 6-8 miles on the first day, and then they’re so sore they can’t sit down on the toilet. So they say, `See, this is horrible! Anything that hurts this bad has to be bad for you.’ But you wouldn’t eat a whole chocolate cake, or else you would be sick and probably wouldn’t do it again for a very, very long time. It’s the same principle at work here."

What advise does she give to out-of-shape people wishing to boost their health and vitality?

"You have to begin with one minute," she said. "If I train someone who is sedentary, I send them out the very first week to run just three minutes.

"The next week you get to go five, and then six. By the end of a month, you’re running thirty minutes a day. It’s really a very simple equation, but most people don’t know it.

"Every hour, no matter what you’re doing, stand up and get out of breath for 20 seconds. No matter what your fitness level, you can get out of breath for 20 seconds. I don’t mean horribly out of breath where you’re panting and wheezing. But walk up and down the stairs two times. Stand in place and move your arms very fast. If you can’t stand up and you’re handicapped, sit in your chair and wiggle your arms and legs very fast. Whatever you can do, whatever it takes, do it for 20-30 seconds 10 times a day.

"Boom! You’ve just moved," she said. "You’ve just started to change your cellular structure. And you will get more fit. You will feel better."


Comments or news tips? Derek Johnson can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For Play it Again Sports, flexibility is key to their success

  • Written by Derek Johnson, Sports Writer

Play it Again 7-5-13 002Photo by Derek Johnson. Play it Again Sports owner Rick Bauman (right) scrutinizes a bike brought in by a customer with the hopes of selling it.As I entered Play it Again Sports for the first time and waited while owner Rick Bauman handled a customer, I wandered toward the bicycle section. As I’m thinking of getting one sometime, my eyes feasted on a couple models. While kibitzing with one of the assistants, I realized the bikes were brand new and not used.

Suddenly, Bauman appeared and shook my hand. We walked to his office and I expressed surprise at seeing new products.     

"Probably 30 percent of our sales are used," he said. "If we could get everything we wanted used, that would be great. But the reality is we can sell way more than we can (buy from the public). So we supplement our inventory with new products. Since we’ve been in business so long, we’ve developed relationships with a lot of different vendors, so we can be very competitive on the new items as well. It gives the  customers choices; if we have what they want in used, great. If not, no reason to go to another store — hopefully we have what they want new."

Play it Again Sports is a national franchise, and Bauman owns two locations. He opened his Lynnwood store in 1990 and the Woodinville location in 1992. "We tend to be a community, family-oriented store," he said. "We try to cater to all the team sports, as well as bikes and scooters and whatever the community would like us to offer."

If one word sums up Bauman’s business philosophy, it seems to be "flexibility."

"We’re definitely very in tune with what’s going on and what sports are on the rise and what customers want," he said. "We tend to react pretty quickly. For example, lacrosse has grown tremendously in the last few years. We jumped on board right from the beginning. It’s been doubling for us every year for the last four or five years.

"Another example is scooters. It’s an area that’s growing like crazy. A lot of stores think scooters are what kids were doing 10 years ago and that it has gone away. But it’s totally changed. It’s high performance scooters now. And we’re right in the ground floor of that. We’re one of the biggest shops in the country for scooter work."

Having been in business for more than two decades, Bauman’s industry succeeds in booming economic times as well as painful recessions. 

"We’ve had very consistent growth from the beginning," he said. "It seems the economy doesn’t affect us as much as maybe other types of shops. A good economy is always the best, of course. But even in a down economy, we seem to do well because we’re a value oriented store."

I referenced again my misconception that they sold nothing but used items.

"For people who have never been in our store before, sometimes they think it’s all old equipment, collector items and novelty or nostalgia type items. We’re usable equipment, current type models. You won’t see 30-year-old baseball bats here; you’ll see one-year- old baseball bats. We’re not going after the collectors, we’re going after people who will use the gear. We’re used, we’re new, we’re service as far as bike and ski tune-ups.  We lease ski equipment and do bike rentals as well.

"We just keep expanding," he said. "Whatever it seems like the customers want, we think ‘oh we can do that,’ and we jump into it."

Local artist’s garden featured on WGC Tour of Gardens

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

from Woodinville Garden Club

Orvidas garden sculptureCourtesy Photo. The gardens of illustrator/artist Ken Orvidas and Pat Orvidas are featured in the Woodinville Garden Club’s Tour of Gardens.Ordinarily, if you want to see and appreciate an artist’s work, your choices would include visiting a gallery or a museum. In the case of these Woodinville artists, their garden is their gallery! Over a dozen of Ken Orvidas’ sculptures reside throughout their garden. They range from a few pounds to almost a ton.  Made from welded steel, some have been allowed to rust naturally, while others have been powder coated or painted with automotive enamel.

Illustrator/artist Ken Orvidas and Pat Orvidas live and work on their 1.3 acre property. In the 23 years since they purchased it in 1990, they have planned and developed all of the present garden areas.

Some of the garden design and most of the hardscape was done by landscape architect David Berleth from Vashon Island. As the garden emerged, the homeowners added windows, decks and gabled roofs to capture their new views.

Like many homeowners in Woodinville, when the Orvidas moved in they began by clearing blackberries, trash, old tires and alders. Today, fenced raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and vegetables co-exist with ornamental trees, shrubs and grasses. A black bamboo-shaded garden of perennials chosen for seasonal bloom nestles in stone terraces beside the house.  Hundreds of dahlias bloom throughout the sunniest beds.

Together the gardens and sculptures create a park-like setting where paths, stairs and rock walls connect a combination of mature and new plantings arranged on large terraces. The feeling is informal, peaceful and reflective.

The Woodinville Garden Club’s 14th annual Tour of Gardens will be held on Saturday, July 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This self-drive tour features five stunning private gardens in the Woodinville area.

Tickets are $20 per person. Tickets can be purchased online via the club’s website: 

As a bonus, orders placed online will ship with a voucher for a free 2013 tour poster per ticket while supplies last. Tickets sold online after July 12 will be available for pickup at garden number one on the day of the Tour.Tickets are also available at Molbak’s, Classic Nursery (Woodinville), Boxhill Farm Nursery (Duvall), Wells Medina Nursery (Medina) and Ravenna Gardens (Seattle). Your ticket is a brochure that includes garden descriptions and driving directions to all the properties.The Woodinville Garden Club would like to acknowledge the businesses and patrons in our community who have helped support our Tour of Gardens. Your financial support and contributions to the tour are greatly appreciated and allow us to fund our ongoing civic programs and special projects.

Customer demand leads to Kenmore Camera expansion  

  • Written by Shannon Michael, Features Writer

Kenmore Camera Family PhotoKenmore Camera owner Jim Donovan, center, has three children who are members of the company leadership team. Shown in the store with Donovan are daughter Mary Panichi, who manages administrative work, Bob Donovan, who manages the technical responsibilities, Donovan’s grandson and Scott’s son, Michael Donovan, who operates the photo lab, and Scott Donovan, who manages the technical responsibilities for the store. Photo by Shannon MichaelKENMORE–Despite the downturn in the economy the past several years, and the growth of easy to use digital cameras on cell phones, Kenmore Camera has worked hard to maintain demand for its store’s products and growing line-up of services.
The company’s persistence in anticipating and meeting customers’ evolving needs not only helped them weather the current recession, it has allowed the company to expand.

Customers are turning to the specialty camera retailer for more than products; they are seeking hands-on classes, unique products and lab service.

Jim Donovan, who founded Kenmore Camera in 1974, is moving his business located at 18031 67th Ave. NE in Kenmore, to a bigger location across the street in response to customer demand.

Donovan purchased the retail space, which used to be a grocery store, from the City of Kenmore in Kenmore Village, a redeveloping downtown commercial area.

“An expanded service mix requires more space,” Donovan said.

The new location is 17,000 square feet, more than tripling the space from the 4,600 square feet at the current location.

Kenmore Camera hopes to occupy the space by early September. A grand opening date has yet to be set, though. The store’s construction is ahead of schedule. The contractor, Dewalt Commercial LLC, expects the remodel to be complete by the end of August.

Building renovations are underway including a major exterior facelift. The finished space includes two classrooms, customer lounge, expansive retail space and custom lighting displays.

OAC Services, Inc. is providing construction and project management and the architecture firm is ORB Architects.

Despite the shrinking specialty camera market that has forced many competitors to close their doors, the multi-generational, family business is growing due to constant improvements. It features lab services and classes that accommodate all experience levels, attracting customers from as far north as Bellingham and as far south as Tacoma.

Customers can register online or by phone for classes on topics ranging from a crash course on digital photography, travel photography and night photography, to classes on specific types of cameras.

As a King County Executive’s Small Business Awards finalist, Donovan attributes a part of the company’s success to the niche Digital Photo Expo that Kenmore Camera hosts annually the first weekend in November at the Lynnwood Convention Center. The Expo offers product demonstrations and 32 classes covering a wide variety of photo related subjects.

Kenmore Camera RenderingArchitect’s rendering of the new Kenmore Camera building.The recently negotiated purchase made it possible for the company to stay in Kenmore, a city that the Donovan family calls home. Donovan and his wife, Martha, live just up the hill from the business.

“Kenmore is where we belong. The city leadership wants us here, and our customers know where we are located,” said Donovan.
The Donovans’ three children are members of the company leadership team. Bob Donovan, the eldest son, handles management and operations; Scott Donovan manages the technical responsibilities; and Mary Panichi, their daughter, manages the administrative work. The Donovans’ grandson (Scott’s son), Michael Donovan, operates the photo lab.

“Retaining Kenmore Camera as a local business was a priority for us at the city,” said City of Kenmore’s city manager, Rob Karlinsey. “We support our homegrown businesses and worked hard to make sure Jim and his team had what they need.”