A bike shop probably isn't the first place you'd think of to grab your morning coffee or a freshly baked pastry, but you might want to reconsider. Those in the know frequent the Dutch Bike Company in Ballard for Lighthouse coffee, breakfast burritos, and the best salted chocolate-chip cookies you've ever tasted.
Photo courtesy of Dutch Bike Co.
Julie Kloss owns the business with her husband David Schmidt--a business they relocated last August to the historic Kolstrand Building next door to Staple & Fancy and The Walrus and the Carpenter. With the move came the addition of a cafe which turns out coffee by day and wine and beer at night; the perfect place to stop, sit, and sip no matter the time. In this week's Grillaxin, Kloss talks about her former job as a pizza cook at Cafe Lago, why she decided to leave her job as a stay-at-home mom to sell Dutch bikes full-time, the real name of the Dutch Bike Company, and the sweet treat she made 2,000 of last year . . . after the jump!
SW: What's your connection to Europe?
Kloss: [My husband and I] went to Amsterdam a few times and rode bikes and just sort of fell in love with that whole energy, and I thought, "Why aren't these bikes being sold in Seattle?" There was some draw to it we couldn't ignore. Last August, we started developing this idea of adding the coffee shop as kind of an extension of the bikes we sell, which are sort of a European-lifestyle bike rather than a "I'm going to go ride 70 miles" bike. They get you to where you need to get. If you've been to Europe, you'd go drink coffee in the morning at the same place, you'd have a glass of wine later.
Professionally, I hadn't baked for a while. I used to work on the line at Cafe Lago for years. I made pizzas. Right when I moved to Seattle, about 18 years ago. I'm originally from Illinois.
Is that why there's another Dutch Bike Co. in Chicago?
We actually opened that after we opened the Seattle store. We do a lot of shipping, and Chicago is flat and large, and, you know, it seemed like the perfect middle-of-the-country location, and we really like Chicago, too.
Is the Chicago store part cafe, too?
Not yet. We actually just moved locations and we have sort of a split space and our goal is to eventually--because we just moved in a month-and-a-half ago to Wicker Park--open a cafe there, too. They're sadly lacking in good coffee in Chicago!
How long total has the DBC been in business?
We started about six years ago. We had a slow start. It wasn't a business that we exactly knew. And the cafe, too. I've definitely learned a lot of things that I would do or not do again. You gain experience and you go, "OK, that was not the right decision!" It is stressful, but there are days where you think, "Yeah. We're doing OK. We're doing the right thing." I know what my strengths are. That's one of the benefits of getting older!
Oh, no! I do use Macrina some. I started out thinking I'd just make ice-cream sandwiches because I make these really great ice-cream sandwiches! But then, I also wanted things to be really good, and then people started telling me that my stuff was so much better. It's so fun, it's so satisfying. People come in and they get this little piece of joy for $2.
Are you self-taught?
Yes. My mom is one of my inspirations. My dad owned a grain elevator and flour mill and my mom is just a great baker. We always had a freezer full of cookies when I was growing up. She's like the cookie queen! It was just something I grew up around; I never even thought about going to buy cookies because I could make them. It slowly just developed and now I generally bake pretty much everything.
Do you have some best-sellers?
The salted chocolate-chip cookies. I sold and made over 2,000 of them since we opened last year. And that's just the ones I've sold; I've given a lot away.
What else is on your menu?
I do breakfast sandwiches that are panini using Macrina potato rolls, and we have a few varieties of those. My big thing is breakfast burritos. I put roasted yams in them and good black beans and so it's healthy, not too huge, kind of that perfect-size. And no one is really doing something like that here, so yeah, we go through a lot of those!
What did you do before you opened DBC?
I was an art teacher. I have a degree in Art Education, but I had a drive to learn how to make really good pizza! A friend of mine knew Carla Leonardi and Jordi Viladas [the owners of Cafe Lago] and I got a job there. They're such great people and they make a great product. I leaned a lot and I kind of just got the bug of working in restaurants. I baked at The Still Life Cafe part-time and then I baked at Georgina's and then I moved to Whidbey Island and things started happening. I got a job teaching art at a middle school in Seattle for a couple of years and then I had my kids and took some time off. So, now they're getting bigger [Kloss has a daughter, 11, and a son, 6] and I was able to stay home with them. I think about food and cooking and baking all the time!
And your husband?
Before we started the bike shop, he was a high-rise window cleaner.
You know, I don't know how it all happened! I wish I did! It was really looking for that feeling that you're providing something for the community, that you're making some kind of difference. I do believe the bikes are such a nice addition to the community of biking.
Did you pick Ballard for you shop because of the Scandinavian presence?
No, it was more where the bike trail went and we liked the neighborhood. We looked at a number of locations and also, Ballard is in a flat area where people can do good test rides. Our joke is that the cafe is actually legally called The Missing Link, and if you look close, you can see monkeys in the mural we have on the wall. It's our play on delft pottery with the addition of our own goofy elements. Our friend does illustration for The New Yorker and he designed it.
Do you guys ride your bikes to work?
I don't ride my bike as much as I would like, but we both ride as much as possible.
Check back tomorrow for part two of this week's Grillaxin with Julie Kloss.