MARYSVILLE — Oosterwyk’s Dutch Bakery in downtown Marysville has been family owned and run for 59 years. The Oosterwyk family has a rich history in baking, as well as with the city. When Gerard Willem Oosterwyk, 93, died Oct. 20, his daughter, Marja Oosterwyk, knew what she was going to do.
She’ll keep baking.
“We are the only old-fashioned scratch bakery for miles around,” his daughter said. “We still provide specialties to local folks. We provide more than 70 Yulekaka loaves for the Normanna Lodge in Everett. And with many Dutch traditions around the holidays, we can’t make enough almond sticks.”
Bread was truly her father’s specialty. His passion for baking started when he was a boy in The Netherlands.
“My father always said that he became a baker because when he was growing up, there was never enough bread on the table,” Oosterwyk said.
At his stepmother’s bidding, 14-year-old Gerard learned to bake bread in his hometown of Boskoop, going on to earn his first diploma from the Institute of Bread Baking. He eagerly put his trade to work, until life was upended by World War II. His anti-German sentiments landed him three years in the Stuttgart labor camp, from 1942 until the European war ended in 1945.
Soon after, Gerard married Nellie and opened his first bakery in Soesdijik in 1946. His breads quickly gained a reputation as the best money could buy, which earned him the title of palace bread baker for the Dutch royal family. For five years he supplied their bread.
“On our sign, you see a crest. That is the royal crest. Queen Juliana gave that to my father. That is a high honor, and my father was so proud to have received it,” Oosterwyk said.
In 1951, they lost everything. A gas leak caused an explosion at the bakery. Their house was in the back. Everything was gone. Thankfully, Gerard, Nellie, their son Peter, 5, and Marja, 2, were not home.
With nothing left, the Oosterwyks immigrated to the United States to start over.
“My father was a twin. His brother had his same name, but reversed, Willem Gerard. He had just been granted immigration to the U.S. So my uncle gave my father his papers to bring us here. You know, my uncle always said he wanted to go to America,” Oosterwyk said. “And yet of all of his siblings, he was the only one never to leave The Netherlands.”
After the birth of his youngest daughter, Rietta, Gerard and his family settled in Marysville in 1954. Gerard got a loan from Seattle First bank, with his car and handshake as collateral, and bought Marysville Home Bakery. The former owner, a Swede, sold on the condition that the bakery would continue to bake three specific items for Marysville residents — cardamom braids, Yulekaka, and loaves of Swedish rye, which are still sliced on the original bread slicer that came with the bakery. Those continue to be favorites at the bakery.
Oosterwyk kept the old name and supplied the local grocers with fresh bread. He provided home delivery of breads, and hamburger and hot dog buns made from scratch — a skill perfected as the baker for the Marines at Camp Lejeune, where he worked when he first immigrated to America.
In 1970 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Gerard sold the business, but he kept the building at 1513 Third St. He also kept the slicer and the recipes.
His tremor turned out to not be Parkinson’s, but something related to his time in the labor camp in Stuttgart.
A few years later, he was able to reopen the building, and Oosterwyk’s Dutch Bakery was born.
“I love hearing how far people come just to visit my bakery. I love that people don’t want the bakery to change,” Oosterwyk said. “I don’t want to quit. This bakery has been family owned for 59 years, and I love to keep that legacy, my father’s legacy, alive.”
Andrew Gobin: 425-339-3000 ext. 5461; firstname.lastname@example.org