Bakery finds harmony for its future
After decades of providing community members with a welcome space to enjoy meals, fresh baked goods and conversation, Harmony Baking Company owner Linda Lawrence and chef Sandy Walker are leaving the kitchen for a final time.
When Lawrence and Walker retire at the end of the year, Lawrence's niece Jenny Beaudoin and Beaudoin's husband Corey will purchase the Estacada mainstay at 221 S.W. Wade St.
"It's time to graduate. I've been doing this class for awhile," said Lawrence, who opened the bakery in 1984.
Lawrence is happy to pass the reigns to Beaudoin, who worked at Harmony during high school and after college. She is currently employed as a unit specialist at Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center, and Corey is a glassblower. He also attended culinary school and spent more than 15 years as a chef, several of which were at the bakery.
"Jenny's a terrific human," Lawrence said. "She has all the people skills. She's very perceptive and very aware ... It's still very daunting (to retire), but there's nobody better to do this than Jenny and Corey."
When Harmony Baking Company opened, 2-year-old Beaudoin played in boxes while the restaurant's equipment was being unpacked. Growing up, she and her brother Paul would have breakfast with Lawrence at the bakery each morning before walking to school.
"It's very much been a second home to me," Beaudoin said.
Lawrence, who will continue in her current role until Sunday, Dec. 22, is looking forward to seeing the future of the establishment. The bakery will open under new management and with an updated menu and hours the first weekend of January.
"Some things will remain the same, but the bakery deserves to evolve," Lawrence said. "I feel terrific about it. It has so many places to go."
Prior to moving to Estacada and opening Harmony, Lawrence worked in the restaurant industry in Southern California. When she decided she wanted to leave Los Angeles, she chose Oregon because it was where her sister, and Beaudoin's mother, Judy, lived with her family.
Both of Lawrence's parents were entrepreneurs, so having her own business "didn't feel so bizarre."
In 1987, the bakery moved from its first location at 366 Broadway St. to its home on Wade Street, where it's been ever since.
"I thought, 'people will walk two blocks for food,'" Lawrence recalled.
Along with breakfast and lunch, Harmony is also known for its freshly baked bagels and doughnuts. Employees arrive at 3:30 a.m. each morning to begin making them.
"It was an important thing I could bring to Estacada," Lawrence said. "People thought bagels were doughnuts. We sold 25 bagels our first day. Now, we make hundreds."
A family atmosphere
Lawrence teared up when discussing how much her team at the bakery means to her. Many of Harmony Baking Company employees have been there long term, including Walker, who managed the bakery with Lawrence for 27 years.
Lawrence appreciates it when past employees stop by to visit.
"It really does feel like I'm a third grade teacher when people come back and see me, when they feel like this was a really wonderful experience in their life," she said. "I can remember the first (employees). I remember all of them. (The best part has been) the relationships, not only with the customers, but with the employees."
Both Lawrence and Beaudoin described the environment at the bakery as a close-knit one.
"It's a family. And you've been the mother of that family," Beaudoin told her.
"I raised a lot of people," Lawrence added.
Much like a traditional family, members of the Harmony Baking Company team have traveled to several destinations, including Mazatlan, Mexico.
While employees are responsible for their own airfare, Lawrence often covers the cost of lodging and meals. She estimated that they've gone 20 times since 1987, when she purchased a timeshare in the area.
"It's always a ball. There are the memories of a lifetime," she said. "A couple of employees got engaged there."
Other adventures for the group include skiing on Mt. Hood, boating at Promontory Park Marina and renting a house on the Oregon Coast.
Lawrence has also appreciated the community's enthusiasm for the bakery.
"People come in and say, 'I've eaten here my whole life,'" she said.
"My generation doesn't remember this town without the bakery," Beaudoin added.
Carrying on the legacy
Beaudoin is excited to continue what Lawrence has started while incorporating several new elements into the bakery, such as a nonprofit program. For two hours each week, customers in need will be able to eat at the restaurant for free, and servers during this time will be at-risk youth. Beaudoin, who has a masters degree in social work, hopes to empower this disenfranchised population through mentorship and the opportunity to gain service industry skills
"I grew up in this town, and I understand poverty in a rural environment," she said. "(Doing this) feels meaningful because my parents have modeled those values for me."
Beaudoin's mother, Judy, was the Estacada School District's nurse for 16 years, and her father, Kim, was involved with the Estacada Food Bank for several years prior to his death in 2012.
Beaudoin expects to add the nonprofit element to Harmony sometime in the latter half of 2020.
Along with seeing this new aspect of the business, Lawrence looks forward to visiting the bakery in a new role.
"I expect to be here having coffee and breakfast, and have the ability to do that without having to check something," she said, smiling.
She compared owning a restaurant to "having a child that doesn't ever grow up."
"It's time for the baby to go to daycare," she said. "But it's all good. I have no regrets about it."
She said that she has particularly valued the community support for her endeavor.
"I appreciate that I always felt like they wanted me to keep going," she said. "When I was tired, they'd say 'I don't know what we'd do without you,' and that gave me the energy to keep moving."
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