By John Wolcott The Herald Business Journal
EVERETT — There’s a new bakery and cafe downtown that has people excited about starting their day with a tasty burrito or croissant sandwich, grabbing a salad for lunch or picking up pastries, cakes and breads to take home.
Chasing their dream of building a successful business, entrepreneurs Sherie and Joe Rzeczkowski moved their popular Petite Sweet Bakery &Cafe from downtown Arlington’s main drag to Everett’s Colby Avenue early in June.
“The Olympic Avenue location was good but when the other tenant in our building left we found ourselves with 4,500 square feet of space, way too much for just our business and for our budget,” Joe Rzeczkowski said. “Also, we simply needed a location with more population and downtown activity.”
In their first month of business in Everett, the Rzeczkowskis doubled their Arlington location’s highest monthly revenue. And since people are just beginning to discover them in the space left vacant by the departure of Pavé Specialty Bakery at 2613 Colby Ave., they expect business to continue improving.
“When the contractor was remodeling and painting, his work kept getting interrupted because so many people were asking when we’d be opening,” Joe Rzeczkowski said.
More people are showing up every day, he said, attracted by the varied menu he and his wife created.
Breakfast, served all day, features quiches, croissant sandwiches, granola with honey-sweetened yogurt and fresh fruit, made-from-scratch biscuits with pork sausage gravy, scrambled egg and cheddar cheese burritos with ham, bacon or sausage and salsa on the side.
The lunch menu features soups served with a freshly baked roll or corn muffin, hot and cold sandwiches and a variety of salads. Vegetarian options for many menu items are available daily.
The pastry counter holds blueberry, cream cheese and lemon danishes, cinnamon rolls and pies. Cakes include chocolate, lemon spice, red velvet and carrot with a variety of fillings and frostings. With 48 hours notice, Sweet Petite will prepare custom cakes and pies.
Most of their menu items can be ordered to go and deliveries are free within downtown Everett.
The business is growing, but like most entrepreneurial endeavors it hasn’t been easy, Rzeczkowski said, recalling the bakery’s beginning in Arlington two-and-a-half years ago.
“We started our bakery business in the midst of the recession,” he said.
The opportunity to start their own business came when the recession ended Sherie Rzeczkowski’s well-paying job with an Everett architectural firm. With jobs scarce, she completed a course in how to launch a new business, and they decided it was time to fulfill their dream of owning a bakery.
For Sherie Rzeczkowski, that had been a lifelong dream. Since she made bagels in her neighborhood bakery during her high school years, she’d wanted to “make people happy by serving them delicious food,” she said.
Inspired by her Danish aunt’s baking secrets and recipes, Sherie Rzeczkowski grew up sharing her family’s love for baking, growing fresh fruits and vegetables and raising chickens for fresh eggs.
Joe Rzeczkowski learned short-order cooking working for the Harvey House restaurant chain in Chicago. His interest in baking developed during the 25 years he sold promotional advertising to publications in and around Bellingham, where he attended Western Washington University.
“When we started our business, we couldn’t even get a bank loan,” he said. “Considering the 80 percent failure rate for new restaurants and the impact of the recession, banks wouldn’t even talk to us.”
Like many new business ventures, the couple turned to support from family and friends who had faith in them.
After the main tenant in the Arlington building left, they carried on with a cook loaned from their landlord’s business and found a volunteer baker who worked until they could afford to hire her. Sherie Rzeczkowski said they learned a lot about employee management and took on a couple of interns the Snohomish County Workforce Development Council provided for job training.
At one point, Whidbey Island Bank provided a loan but called it a year later as the recession deepened.
Although the business thrived, the sales volume still fell short of their needs. Then came the opportunity to move to Everett, adjacent to Burkett’s Savvy Clothing for Women.
The owner, longtime Everett business leader JoAnn Burkett, “invested in our business, glad to have us for a neighbor. She helped us get our bakery remodeled and repainted — a wonderful help,” Joe Rzeczkowski said admiringly. “Then we hired the baker from Pavé and a cook who came in looking for work. Our menu is a blend of Pavé favorites and our most popular items we sold in Arlington.”
The Rzeczkowskis credit their success to what Rzeczkowski learned long ago at Harvey House: “Serve hot coffee, fast food and friendly service.”
Also, they really listen to what their customers say.
“We get lots of good ideas and requests from our customers and we’ll probably expand the business and change our menus based on what they want. This whole adventure is still open ended,” Sherie Rzeczkowski said.
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Pay a visit
For more information, go to www.petitesweetbakery.com, call 425-258-1800 or visit the shop at 2613 Colby Ave., Everett. Business hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with lunch served from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.