With a half dozen people waiting in line, owner Tara Baumler takes orders from customers at the Maltby Cafe on Thursday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

With a half dozen people waiting in line, owner Tara Baumler takes orders from customers at the Maltby Cafe on Thursday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Miracle in Maltby: Community support saves small-town cafe

Owners of the Maltby Cafe feared closure, but a wave of business and donations has thwarted the end.

MALTBY — The pleasant scent of cinnamon wafted from the kitchen, filling the air of the Maltby Cafe on Thursday as staff ushered orders to courteous customers and calls for takeout flooded the phone.

The controlled chaos ensued when a community, from near and far, feared losing its favorite country cafe.

Piling bills and a lull in business amid the pandemic had put the Maltby Cafe on the brink of an unceremonious shutdown, according to its owners.

After more than 30 years, owners Tana Baumler and Sandra Albright anticipated this month would be the restaurant’s last.

“It’s been heartbreaking — we never thought we’d see ourselves in this position,” Baumler said. “We went through the summer not great but OK, but this last close-down, that just took us under.”

At the small cafe in the basement of a 1930s gymnasium, where the speciality is cinnamon rolls and the staff are like a family, the idea of the end was devastating.

As a last hoorah to pay employees through the holidays, Baumler developed the “Miracle on Maltby Street,” a socially distanced, holiday-themed event that would hopefully fund a $10,000 medical insurance payment until the end of the year.

When word spread of the cafe’s troubles, the community stepped in. Takeout orders quadrupled overnight, and a GoFundMe fundraising page was created.

Sarah Calvo pours icing on a cinnamon roll at the Maltby Cafe while Kylie King checks takeout orders on Thursday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Sarah Calvo pours icing on a cinnamon roll at the Maltby Cafe while Kylie King checks takeout orders on Thursday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

In the four days since, more than $85,000 has been raised from 1,200 donors. Donations big and small have come with heartfelt messages from customers who can’t imagine life without their local cafe.

“Tana wanted a miracle and this was the miracle,” Albright said.

At first, both owners objected to the fundraising campaign. Proud and stubborn, Baumler said she cried of embarrassment before realizing this was the act she’d prayed for.

“You work so hard and you still can’t make it, and I am not use to that,” Baumler said. “But it’s a lot bigger than me. It’s about the employees, it’s about the community and for the first time in my life I had to not give, but accept.”

The outpouring of support shocked restaurant staff, but customers didn’t seem surprised.

As she picked up her favorite egg scramble, Kelly Pierson said the coffee tastes better at Maltby Cafe. The fresh ingredients and made-to-order quality make the cafe her favorite spot for special occasions and for bringing out-of-town guests.

With a higher-than-normal number of orders on the counter, Sandra Albright looks for a customer’s order at the Maltby Cafe on Thursday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

With a higher-than-normal number of orders on the counter, Sandra Albright looks for a customer’s order at the Maltby Cafe on Thursday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

“They’re invested in the community and the community is invested in them,” Pierson said.

As he picked up lunch for him and his son, Richard Ferguson said he’s tried everything on the mammoth menu. The 20-year cafe customer said his whole neighborhood decided to support the business.

“It’s just always here, and there is not a lot here,” Ferguson said. “This is just something we don’t want to lose from our community. Plus, who doesn’t need a great breakfast every once in a while?”

The influx of orders and donations has washed away the wave of hopelessness that Baumler said consumed her thoughts just days before. Albright said it was like a bright light that gave them a reason to keep going.

Donations will go toward catching up on overdue bills and the sales uptick may allow for some employees to be rehired if demand remains.

Cinnamon rolls await icing at the Maltby Cafe on Thursday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Cinnamon rolls await icing at the Maltby Cafe on Thursday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The owners can’t guarantee the future of the Maltby Cafe, but there is renewed anticipation that the restaurant may survive the traditionally slow winter months.

“It’s Christmas time and I feel like it is one of those stories from a movie that you watch and it has a happy ending,” Baumler said. “All the stress, the nights laying awake, concern and prayers and all of a sudden it’s happening.”

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

Ian Davis-Leonard reports on working class issues through Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. To support Ian’s work at The Daily Herald with a tax-deductible donation, go to www.heraldnet.com/support.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Business Briefs: State minimum wage rises in January

Also, Boeing workers’ donations support local nonprofits and fundraiser for businesses impacted by Bolt Creek wildfire.

Jollee Nichols, right, and daughter Ruby, 2, work on an art project together at the Imagine Children’s Museum on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With new addition, Imagine Children’s Museum doubles in size

More than just space, the Everett museum’s new $25 million wing is an investment in mental health.

Artistic rendering of 526 Speedway exterior. (Mosaic Avenue Realty Ltd.)
Mosaic Homes looks to add industrial condo space in Mukilteo

Mosaic Homes steps into commercial real estate development with 526 Speedway, an industrial condo project.

Andy Illyn with a selection of his greeting cards, Cardstalked, that are sold at What’s Bloomin’ Floral on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Adventure-seeking cop finds new thrill in greeting cards

Mukilteo assistant police chief Andy Illyn unwinds by turning puns and dad jokes into greeting cards.

Dan Murphy, left, Mary Fosse and Rex Habner. (BadgleyPhotography.com / Snohomish & Island County Labor Council)
Everett City Council member honored by local labor council

Mary Fosse, candidate for District 38, receives the first annual Mike Sells Labor Champion award.

Shoppers walk in and out of Macy’s at Alderwood Mall were Black Friday deals are being advertised on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Go ahead, hit snooze: Most Black Friday deals are online

Braving the stores on Black Friday is still a thing, but more retailers are closed on Thanksgiving.

FILE - In this photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state on Aug. 28, 2017, after a failure of the nets allowed tens of thousands of the nonnative fish to escape. A Washington state jury on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, awarded the Lummi Indian tribe $595,000 over the 2017 collapse of the net pen where Atlantic salmon were being raised, an event that elicited fears of damage to wild salmon runs and prompted the Legislature to ban the farming of the nonnative fish. (David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)
State won’t renew leases for Puget Sound fish farms

Cooke Aquaculture has until Dec. 14 to wrap up steelhead farming and begin deconstructing their equipment.

Kevin Flynn, right, a meat-cutter with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Flynn was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Proposed merger of Albertsons and Kroger worries employees

Workers at an Albertsons in Marysville urge shoppers to sign a petition blocking the $25 billion deal.

Kim Taylor, left, and Jeff Stoner co-own Greenbank Cidery, a newly opened taproom on Whidbey Island with eight varieties of cider on tap. (Rachel Rosen / Whidbey News-Times)
Cider tasting room opens on Whidbey Island

The owners of Greenbank Cidery have opened a tasting room in Coupeville. Eight varieties of cider are on tap.

Erika Heer, EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer at Coastal Community Bank
Quiet Quitting – the good, bad and what to do about it

Mid-summer, the term ‘quiet quitting’ became a part of the vocabulary of… Continue reading

Customers walk in and out of Fred Meyer along Evergreen Way on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Store managers in Everett plead for help with crime, public safety

Two Fred Meyer stores report theft, drug use and threats, despite increased security and presence from Everett police.

Group14 Technologies factory floor in Woodinville, Washington on March 1, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Snohomish County-based battery maker awarded $100M federal grant

Money from US Department of Energy will help Group14 Technologies construct a new manufacturing plant in Moses Lake.