A half-gallon bottle sits on the counter at the Milk House Coffee Co. That glass container is a mid-century collector’s item, a reminder of an earlier Everett, with red letters spelling out “Walt’s Milk House” and “Farm Fresh Daily.”
Entering the new coffeehouse, where the interior paint color is light mocha, will for some folks be a return to a long-ago destination. Starting in 1960, customers came to Walt’s Milk House, at 4405 Rucker Ave., to buy milk produced at Walter and Ruth Bartelheimer’s Snohomish area farm — and to return those heavy bottles.
“I feel like I know it, so many people have shared their memories of it,” said Heather Wallace. She and her husband, Michael Wallace, bought the old Walt’s Milk House building and will officially open their cafe Monday.
The Milk House Coffee Co. is bringing a new life along with locally produced coffee and goodies to a building that, after Walt’s Milk House closed in the early 1990s, housed a number of businesses. Michael Wallace said they bought the building in 2020 from Kevin Dahl, whose International Stylists, Inc., has operated Third Dimension Salons. Previous businesses there included a deli and a Tupperware distribution center.
Nostalgia for Walt’s Milk House surfaced as the Wallaces worked on renovations. The family of Kirke Sievers, a longtime Snohomish County treasurer who died in 2019, brought the couple vintage Walt’s Milk House bottles, and others have given memorabilia to use as decor.
In October, a blog post on Everett’s Lamoureux Real Estate website looked back on Walt’s Milk House, touting its “legendary chocolate milk.” It included an ad for the grand opening, April 29-30, 1960, with a pitch for “Free! All the Milk You Can Drink!” that weekend.
The new shop’s owners don’t have photos of Walt’s Milk House, or of the man for which it was named.
“With all the farming, nobody took time to take any pictures. We were so busy,” said Dan Bartelheimer, 77, son of the late Walter and Ruth Bartelheimer. “I delivered many a truckload of milk,” he said, recalling that along with Walt’s Milk House his family operated a retail store in Mountlake Terrace and sold milk directly from the farm.
Walt Bartelheimer died in 1985, and his widow died in 2000.
Dan Bartelheimer, president of the Snohomish County Farm Bureau, now runs Sno-Valley Farms with his son, Peter Bartelheimer. His extended family’s agricultural history was highlighted in 2018. Walter’s cousin, dairyman Dale Bartelheimer and his family members were named Snohomish County’s Centennial Farm Family. Dale Bartelheimer died in 2019.
Michael Wallace, 47, and his 45-year-old wife grew up on south Whidbey Island. Heather Wallace doesn’t recall Walt’s Milk House, but has memories of going to the nearby Totem restaurant.
The couple, who’ve lived in Everett about 18 years, are bringing their own family history to the Milk House Coffee Co., where some custom woodwork was created by Michael’s father. “My dad milled this,” he said of a wooden bar along one window where patrons will be able to plug in laptops.
Customers will see counters made from bowling alley lanes salvaged 30 years ago in Tacoma. One beam in the cafe was crafted from a Douglas fir blown down in a storm last year on Michael’s parents’ Whidbey property.
Just as Walt’s Milk House brought farm-fresh dairy products to Everett, the Wallaces will provide customers with local goodness.
Their coffee supplier is Velton’s Coffee Roasting Company. Velton Ross is a small-batch roaster in Everett’s Lowell neighborhood. The Whidbey Island Bagel Factory will ferry its wares each day, Heather said. Rabbit’s Pantry Teas in Marysville and Black Scottie Chai from Woodinville are also among the coffee shop’s purveyors.
Those with memories of Everett’s culinary past may remember Pavé Bakery on Colby Avenue, with its master baker Lil Miller. Before the bakery, which closed a decade ago, Miller was an acclaimed chef at a Hewitt Avenue restaurant also called Pavé. On Thursday, in the Milk House Coffee Co. kitchen, Miller was back to baking, coaxed from retirement to create tempting lemon-poppy-seed cookies, scones and other treats for the new shop.
Heather and Michael Wallace, who have three teenagers at Everett High School, had lots to learn in their new endeavor. For coffee expertise, they turned to a mentor, Maxwell Mooney. A nationally ranked barista, Mooney is the creator of Narrative Coffee near the courthouse campus in downtown Everett.
The year 2020 was a cup-half-empty time for many, including the Wallaces. Michael, a career millwright, lost his job. They’re now employing more than 10 people at the Milk House Coffee Co., which opened with limited hours last week. The real beginning comes Monday, when doors — and a drive-thru — will open at 6 a.m.
“When life gives you lemons, we’ll make lattes,” Michael Wallace said.
Julie Muhlstein: firstname.lastname@example.org
Milk House Coffee Co.
The Milk House Coffee Co. opens Monday at 4405 Rucker Ave., Everett. Hours are 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Information: www.milkhousecoffee.com/