EDMONDS — At Edmonds Bakery, it was business as unusual.
On Tuesday afternoon, the phone rang nonstop and customers streamed in without even a second glance at the “Stop the Hate” sign someone taped outside the door.
Many stopped to praise the man in the white apron, owner Ken Bellingham, whose politically charged sugar cookie has divided our sweet nation.
“We have been so busy,” he said. “I have a ton of new customers.”
Meantime, in the social media world, the 67-year-old baker is being blasted as a racist.
“My cookie has been weaponized,” he said.
Last week, he wrote “Build that Wall” in frosting on a heart-shaped treat.
Three words. A $2.50 cookie. And a single Facebook post gone viral.
“The story started with a cookie about a wall and now it’s about my First Amendment rights,” Bellingham said.
“They’re called conversation hearts. Aren’t they supposed to start a conversation?”
Bellingham, who has operated the bakery since 1993, admits he can get risque with some sayings he puts on Valentine cookies. It led to complaints from moms demanding he put them on a shelf above kid-viewing level.
“Sometimes I put silly ones and sexy ones,” he said.
The wall cookie was “tongue-in-cheek,” he said. “Because of the government shutdown all you heard was build that wall. I unwittingly wrote that on a cookie because a lot of people support that. I was back there trying to think of things to put on cookies. My daughter-in-law is a Trumper. I did it with her in mind.
“And then it got put in the case.”
It was behind glass with “Addicted to Love” and “Sweaty Nipples” and “Nice Butt.”
Ana Carrera bought the best-seller “Nice Butt” cookie on Friday when she walked to the bakery on a regular outing with the boys she nannies.
“The cookies are really good,” she said. “They have cheeky little things on them.”
The bakery, with its display of hundreds of ceramic cartoon cookie jars, is a favorite place for the kids to play a game of I Spy.
The older child spied the “Build that Wall” cookie and pointed it out to Carrera, whose parents fled Mexico before she was born. “My dad carried my mom on his shoulders.”
That message crossed the line. “It is very demonizing to anyone of the Spanish speaking language or origin.”
Carrera, 32, said she was conflicted about what to do, other than to snap a photo and let the boys play their I Spy game. “I was the only person of color in the bakery.”
She posted the photo on Facebook, writing: “One of the staff tried defending by saying it was meant as a joke. There’s nothing funny about racism or racist ideals + policies.”
Carrera wasn’t expecting the reaction from the post, which thrust her in the limelight of the national media.
“The wrong person just happened to come in and that person happened to be me and I spoke up about it,” she said.
She doesn’t plan to go back.
Bellingham was caught off guard by the firestorm it created.
“I would have taken it out of the case and maybe put some wording on she liked. But, no, she went immediately and posted it on Facebook and it took on a life of its own,” he said.
“I tried to respond that I didn’t mean to offend anybody. That was sort of my apology but then I got criticized for my apology. That it wasn’t sincere.”
“There’s nothing to apologize for,” interjected new customer Christian Parker, an airplane mechanic buying a dozen maple bars for his co-workers at Boeing.
The “Build that Wall” cookie sold. Bellingham doesn’t know who bought it.
“I want it back, if they haven’t eaten it,” he said.
He hasn’t made any more.
“I’ve got several thousand on order,” he said. “My wife said, ‘Don’t do it.’”
Libby Hustler is among those clamoring for the contentious cookies.
“I wanted five dozen ‘Build the Wall’ cookies to give to friends and take back to Arizona,” said the former Edmonds resident who had to make do with other sweets.
First-time customer Goldie Singleton, a personal trainer, drove from Mill Creek to buy three doughnuts to support the baker he heard about on the radio.
“People are just way too serious,” Singleton said.
Bellingham said his employees are too busy with walk-in traffic to pick up the phone.
“Every time I answer it it’s someone who wants me to ship them cookies,” he said.
“I could capitalize on this. I could really make a lot of money. I’m a humble man. I don’t want to get any side mad. As a business owner, I’ve got to think about my bottom line.”
The baker feels that he’s been unfairly targeted.
“This guy is calling me a scumbag,” he said, reading a comment on the bakery’s Facebook page.
“They called me a racist. They don’t even know me. I take trips to Mexico twice a year on a mission with my church. We go to an orphanage in Tijuana. We do work for them. We play with the kids. One of the days we go out into the little villages and pick up their garbage … I know firsthand what it’s like down there.
“This one lady says I need sensitivity training.”
“No, I don’t,” he said.
“I’m angry that people are angry. It wasn’t a big deal. They made it a big deal. I’m not a very politically minded person … I support secure borders.”
Bellingham plans to make more cookies. “Red ones with ‘Yes Wall’ and blue ones with ‘No Wall’ and ‘Maybe Fence’ on the purple ones,” he said.