Myrna Leickem was elbow deep in dough last Friday morning.
Leickem was making cinnamon rolls for her new business with daughter Andrea Pickett, which sells only on Saturdays at the Maple Valley Farmers Market at Rock Creek Elementary School.
Less than 24 hours before the market opened, Leickem and Pickett were baking the rest of the treats for the next day. They use the ovens in the kitchens of Mama Passarelli’s in Black Diamond.
Leickem points at her daughter when asked how the duo got started baking and says playfully, “It’s all her fault.”
Pickett explains that her mom went to a professional baking program at Renton Technical College after being laid off by Kenworth. After completing her schooling, Leickem worked in a bakery, then went back to Kenworth.
“I was in seventh heaven when I got to go to school for this,” Leickem said.
She was laid off again recently and decided to retire from the Renton-based truck manufacturer.
Around the same time, Pickett heard about this market, and had an idea because her mom has always baked it just made sense.
“This came up and I thought, ‘This can’t be so difficult.’” Pickett said. “You bake it, you take your food and you sell it. She’s always wanted to start her own bakery but in this economy …”
It was sometime around the end of February or start of March when the pair put in a vendors application to the farmers market and got to work preparing for opening day two weeks ago.
“We got started really late,” Leickem said. “It took me a while to get everything sorted out.”
Pickett explained it took a few months to get all the necessary paperwork completed. They had to get a business license, permits, health department food handler cards and all the other little details that go into starting a business.
Even though they don’t have their own storefront, they sure could, Picket said, “with all the permits and so on, you might as well go the full route.”
It’s a question they get at the market, ‘Where’s your bakery?’ or ‘Do you have a store?’
So far, though, selling exclusively at the farmers market has worked well for the pair.
At the opening market on June 20, Leickem and Pickett brought four pans of cinnamon rolls, 80 cup cakes, 30 puff pastries, nearly two dozen scones, nine cakes, some of Leickem’s specialty pastries and 15 lemon pound cakes.
After four hours all they had left was a single item.
“There was nothing cooler … than watching people walking around with your food,” Pickett said. “Everything sold out but one cake.”
It’s been a fun experience selling their goods, too, Leickem explained.
“We met some of the coolest people,” she said. “You think cupcakes and kids go together but adults and cupcakes do, too. There would be adults standing a couple feet away from our stall, going ‘Mmmmmm,’ while eating a cupcake. We appreciate all the people that came through and their kinds words. We didn’t even get time to walk around. It was insane.”
Pickett and Leickem offer a lot of credit to Ginger Passarelli, owner of Mama Passarelli’s, who has happily let them use her kitchen to bake so they would meet health department requirements.
“The chamber recommended Ginger,” Pickett said. “It was a match made in heaven. She had all these ideas and said we could bake stuff for (the restaurant) and some stuff for the farmers market.”
Another benefit is this endeavor has allowed a whole new level of mother-daughter and even family bonding.
“One of the coolest things for us is that it has become a family thing,” Pickett said. “She and I bake together and my stepfather helps out, too. He made items for the stall like the sneeze guard, and oh, he does the tasting, which I know is tough.”
Leickem said this will be a great way to spend her retirement.
“It made me feel good,” she said. “I want people to enjoy it. I want it to be good and I want it to be affordable. This is going to keep me happy.”