Business

Whidbey Pies Cafe opens

Jan Gunn, Whidbey Island’s pie maestro, carries another tray of pies into her new Whidbey Pies Cafe located at the Greenbank Farm.  - Jim Larsen
Jan Gunn, Whidbey Island’s pie maestro, carries another tray of pies into her new Whidbey Pies Cafe located at the Greenbank Farm.
— image credit: Jim Larsen

‘Greenbankers’ team up for new farm attraction

By JIM LARSEN

News-Times editor

When Greenbank Farm Manager Laura Blankenship was looking for a cafe operator, she simply looked up the hill and found Jan Gunn, maker of the world famous Whidbey Pies.

Gunn seemed plenty busy in her 700-square foot pie factory in Greenbank, turning out hundreds of pies for her Northwest fans. On Thursday, she handed more than 256 pies to her distributor, who places her pies in stores ranging from the San Juans to Tacoma.

But Gunn also saved some pies for her new endeavor. For busy as she is, she took Blankenship up on the idea of starting a cafe at the historic, publicly-owned Greenbank Farm.

Whidbey Pies Cafe opened last Saturday to community acclaim. “The place was packed Saturday and Sunday,” exuded Blankenship, who took some local criticism when she closed the farm’s gift shop this winter. The popular wine tasting bar and sales room now take up the gift shop space, while the cafe is operating where the wine bar was located.

“It appears pretty successful to me,” Blankenship said after the cafe’s opening week.

Friday morning Gunn lugged a large tray of pies into the cafe, where Mike Diamanti, owner of Island Coffee LTD., was already at work. Diamanti’s coffee, manufactured by the Mukilteo Coffee Company to Whidbey Island tastes, is another cafe attraction.

“It’s Jan’s place,” said Diamanti. “But it features Island Coffee and Whidbey Pies.”

The cafe is a community effort, and Gunn proudly described her “Greenbank gal friends down here scrubbing the floors” to prepare the room. Local carpenters and craftsmen built the coffee bar and tables, and locally made art is beginning to decorate the walls. Pottery by Sue Lashley is presently featured.

The menu is limited but tempting, with the main attraction being Gunn’s tasty pies. They come in several varieties but her speciality is loganberry. She grows some of the berries herself and imports others from Oregon, but dreams of the near future when the farm produces enough loganberries for her operation. They planted 500 loganberry starts last year and they’re “doing great,” Gunn said.

What exists now is only the start of a dream. “I love this space,” Gunn said. “It’s my neighborhood. I’ve been her 20 years.”

She envisions the time when the farm’s three historic barns are full of artists at work, and the farmland is abloom with loganberries and vegetable-laden pea patches. Locally made arts and crafts will be plentiful and available for tourists to purchase.

As Gunn talks, Stacey Habeck carries in an armful of her Stacey’s Screaming Banshee Bread — flat loaves of whole wheat, Tuscany white and foccacia. It’ll go good with Gunn’s soup of the day, chicken teriyaki, which she was up late making the night before.

Gunn pays Habeck her ultimate compliment.

“She’s a Greenbanker,” she said.

When Gunn’s dream is fulfilled, Greenbank Farm will be full of Greenbankers like Habeck who make tasty, creative things that people want. Such as they offer now at the Whidbey Pies Cafe.

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