Business

Passing on the dream

Serving up goodies to customers, Mark and Monica Downen are in the process of purchasing the Waterfront Bakery & Café in Old Town Silverdale from current owner Kathryn Kitts. The sale is expected to be final on Friday, May 19.  - Photo by Kassie Korich
Serving up goodies to customers, Mark and Monica Downen are in the process of purchasing the Waterfront Bakery & Café in Old Town Silverdale from current owner Kathryn Kitts. The sale is expected to be final on Friday, May 19.
— image credit: Photo by Kassie Korich

Recalling 16 years of memories, Waterfront Bakery & Café owner Kathryn Kitts fought back tears as she described what she’ll miss most.

“They have truly been my family — the customers, the staff,” she said with a smile. “They have been my family connection here.”

Having put in 30 years in the restaurant business, Kitts wasn’t necessarily looking to sell, but knew she would when the right people came along — and they did.

Monica and Mark Downen of Olalla are buying the bakery and café with the closing papers expected to be signed on Friday, May 19. The Downens as well as Kitts are hosting a transition reception for the public from 4-7 p.m. that day.

“It’s to introduce the new owners,” Kitts said.

Both Monica and Mark are familiar faces at the bakery and café as they have been learning the ropes for months now. It was last October when Monica first approached Kitts. Noticing the bakery’s mission statement on the wall, she realized just how closely it mirrored her own beliefs and values.

“I said to her, ‘If you’re serious, come and work in the kitchen and see how the business works,’” Kitts said.

After a few months of mentoring, Mark began helping out. Both he and Monica have past experience in the restaurant business and it’s a career change they are optimistic about. Working as a dispatcher for the King County Sheriff’s Office for 15 years, owning a café was a “daydream” for Monica. Soon that daydream began to turn into reality.

With “the utmost confidence” in his wife, Mark too decided to change careers. An auto technician at a Bellevue shop for the last 16 years, he served as manager for the past 10.

“He’s changing his career to follow my dream,” Monica said, glancing over at her husband.

“And after driving from Olalla to Bellevue every day I was ready,” he added, with a chuckle. “The right reason came along.”

Admitting the business outgrew her about five years ago, Kitts knew a couple would be the best fit.

“The only way to continue my dream would be to have a couple come in,” Kitts said.

Looking forward to what the future will bring, Monica assures that all of Kitts’ recipes will remain in use.

“We’re not changing anything,” she said. “All of Kathryn’s recipes and menus are staying. Our goal is to maintain the high level of customer service she has established ... I’m looking forward to having a wonderful, creative outlet in a supportive environment. This is a very comfortable atmosphere. We want to draw on that and continue that.”

The business also is bringing the couple closer. With Monica working the swing shift and Mark working days, they often didn’t see very much of each other.

“I’ll actually get to spend time with my wife,” Mark said.

Both he and Monica agree that working together has been fun. Kitts too has noticed a natural transition.

“They are both good in the kitchen,” she said. “I have put a lot of time and thought into having as perfect a fit as possible.”

Having worked with Kitts for nearly seven years, retail manager Sharon Roark is sad to see her boss leaving the business, but also is happy for what the future holds for her.

“I’m sad, but I’m happy for Kathryn,” she said. “I’m glad she gets to relax.”

As for Kitts, she says it’s time for “new adventures.”

“After 30 years, anyone who has been in the restaurant business knows it’s very, very hard work,” she added.

Kitts began her career in Milwaukee, Wis., when she attended a culinary arts school. She later moved to Newport Beach, Calif. and opened a restaurant similar to the Waterfront Bakery & Café. After two years of ownership, she went on to own a catering business for 10 years before coming across what was then an annex of Pat’s Cookie Jar in Old Town Silverdale.

Kitts was out with her son Austin (Wilcox), who at the time was 18 months old, at the Waterfront Park before it was an actual park. She approached the owner of the bakery and asked the owner if she would sell the business.

“She said, ‘No’ and I told her if she ever reconsidered, to give me a call,” Kitts explained. “She called me that night.”

She says business began to pick up and on many occasions Austin was with her at the bakery.

“He grew up in the business,” she said. “He was an integral part of it. He kept me humbled.”

Looking back on it all, she recalls the close bonds she has formed.

“Customers have been a vital part of our journey. It truly has been my family here,” she said.

As for her future plans, Kitts intends to continue with jewelry making and is looking forward to completing and publishing her cookbook.

“I’m hoping to complete it by the fall,” she said. “I’ll need the time to do it.”

With plans to obtain a yoga teaching certification, Kitts’ ideal goal is to be able to fill in at local studios for those business owners looking to take time off.

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