Twenty dozen cookies cooled on racks, filling Monroe’s Sky River Bakery with a buttery, luscious aroma. Back in the kitchen, Mary Thorgerson was about to bake another batch. Out front, her husband, Andrew Abt, made sales and traded casual banter with shop regulars.
“We have customers who’ve become wonderful friends,” Abt said Tuesday morning.
While baking and boxing up goodies for the holiday week — those 20 dozen cookies were for “just a customer,” Abt said — the couple talked about plans sure to be unwelcome among their loyal clientele.
Both 66, Abt and Thorgerson are fixing to sell their business after 32 years on Main Street in downtown Monroe.
With retirement beckoning, the parents of two grown children hope to make that transition by Christmas. It was 1987 when they started Sky River Bakery with Karen Clifton. No longer a partner, Clifton runs her own organizing business but still helps at the bakery — her specialty is cake decorating.
Thorgerson needs a rest from the physical demands of baking. She started in Hawaii as a professional baker in the 1970s. “My back wants me to stop working,” she said. The couple live in Sultan. Thorgerson gets up at 2 a.m., is at work by 3 a.m., and bakes “till it’s done.”
“Andrew, he has a way with customer service,” she said.
It’s obvious that customers love the bakery, its proprietors and especially those tempting treats — just ask.
“Sky River is the hub of Main Street,” said Lynda Van Wyk, who stopped by Tuesday with her grown daughter, Kaysie O’Dell.
“Kaysie was starting preschool” when the bakery opened, said Van Wyk. She and a friend, Kim Shaw, would drop their kids at preschool and walk to the bakery for coffee and a “healthy muffin.”
“Through so many of my life events, Sky River has been there. They made the wedding cakes for both of my kids — and 14 years later, people still ask me to remind them where that delicious cake came from,” Van Wyk said. Kaysie, her onetime preschooler, now has her own three girls.
Morning glory muffins, with shredded carrots, apples and chopped walnuts, are a Sky River favorite. “We have made them every day for 32 years. If we didn’t, we’d have a lot of distraught customers,” Abt said.
Their popular lotta lemon muffins, which were sold out Tuesday, are soaked in warm lemon juice after coming out of the oven. Abt shared another “secret ingredient” — the oatmeal-raisin cookies get a touch of extra crunch from corn flakes.
“I’m a regular but I’m trying to cut back. I’m on my way to the Y,” said Eileen Hambleton. She loves the bakery’s elegant marzipan bars, with layers of shortbread, apricot, almond and chocolate glaze. “They call me at my house to tell me they have marzipan,” said Hambleton, a former Everett Community College instructor who lives in Sultan.
Savory sausage rolls are favorites of Dr. Richard Lowell, a dentist and Thorgerson’s cousin. “My mom was Mary’s mom’s sister,” said Lowell, who lives in Snohomish. “Everything they make is unique,” he said. “Mary’s mother was a home-ec teacher on Mercer Island, and her father was a shop teacher. Her mom was an artisan with baking, her father was an artisan with wood.”
A cake from Sky River Bakery was part of Jeff Shober’s recent 60th birthday celebration. “Cakes from this place are time markers,” the Monroe man said.
Everything — quiches and raspberry-white chocolate scones to pies and wedding cakes — is made from scratch. “It’s really a labor of love,” Abt said. “This is how your grandmother baked,” Thorgerson added. The couple once worked seven days a week, but now take Sundays and Mondays off.
Sweet treats are only part of the lure. Regulars return for a taste of the familiar, the friendly faces greeting them.
Monroe’s Gayle Parry, a retired middle school teacher, meets there every Tuesday with Judy Bosse, who worked with her as a paraeducator. Asked about the owners’ coming departure, Bosse said “we’re not looking forward to it at all.”
Abt and his wife are grateful for their decades on Main Street, and believe someone else will want that opportunity.
“We were pretty aware we were buying ourselves a job. I think there are people out there who want to do this,” Thorgerson said. “We have been so blessed all these years,” said her husband.
They mentioned one special customer, Bill Davisson. The Monroe man came every day and took a window seat. He was 77 when he died in 2017. “His wife, Carolyn, is still in every day. She’s become a close friend,” Abt said.
Monroe’s Catherine Aguilera described the bakery owners as “faithful in every way — their service, the quality of their products, and giving to the community.” A fan of the Sky River quiche and morning glory muffins, she remembers making her way to the bakery one day after a big snowfall.
“Everything was closed,” she said, recalling her morning walk through the snow. “Then, at a distance, I could see their open sign.”