A mother-daughter duo on Central Whidbey is making waves in the island coffee scene.
Longtime island resident and former South Whidbey student Angie Lambert-Jackson owns Cedar & Salt, the Coupeville cafe that is approaching its first anniversary, and she has brought her mother Debbie O’Phelan along for the ride as one of her head bakers.
Lambert-Jackson has been in the coffee business since she was a student at South Whidbey High School. She worked for Whidbey Coffee for seven years, eventually becoming a manager at the drive-through. When she moved off island in her late twenties, she took a job at a Starbucks in Snohomish County.
Eventually, her career led her to Whole Foods, where she worked as a bakery purchasing supervisor. When she and her husband moved to Granite Falls in 2015, she decided she wanted to get back into coffee. Working in the drive-through was the most rewarding job of her career up to that point, she said, adding that it was fulfilling for her to work with customers at such a personal level.
While she was distributing resumes at different coffee shops, a friend informed her that a stand in town was for sale. Until that moment, Lambert-Jackson said, she had never envisioned herself owning a business, but the suggestion struck a chord with her.
“That was like a lightbulb moment,” she said.
She looked into purchasing the stand but discovered it would be cheaper to build her own place from the ground up. It wasn’t easy work; she and her husband had to construct a building, purchase all new equipment and build their customer base from nothing. But the first Cedar & Salt establishment was born.
“It was a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” she said.
Lambert-Jackson and her husband still own the Granite Falls stand. When they moved back to Whidbey Island, they spent around two years looking for a location for their second Cedar & Salt establishment. At the time, Lambert-Jackson envisioned another drive-through coffee stand.
But then she came across the cafe she used to frequent in her late teens and early twenties. Back when she was a regular, it was a coffee shop called Miriam’s. The space had passed through a couple other iterations since then and was now vacant. Despite a full cafe being more difficult to manage than a drive-through, she decided to lease it.
Getting the space ready took a lot of work. Its former occupants had left a lot behind, and it was dirty from years of sitting empty. Lambert-Jackson, her mother and their husbands all pitched in to clean and spruce up the place before opening.
“It was a family affair,” Lambert-Jackson said.
The new Cedar & Salt establishment remains a family affair, as one of Lambert-Jackson’s first hires was her mother, who she brought on as one of her head bakers.
O’Phelan’s love of baking began long before she started working for her daughter. O’Phelan sold pies at the Bayview Farmers Market with her kids’ assistance for about 13 years. She was wildly popular — she said community members often queued up at her spot before she even arrived at the market.
“We had a really good thing going,” she said. “We would have a line basically until we sold out.”
She was also the head baker for a time at the Langley Village Bakery, where she arrived at 2 a.m. to make everything from scratch.
It’s a skill she has brought with her to Cedar & Salt. Everything — the dough, the fillings, the icing, the soups — is all made from scratch at the cafe, often from locally sourced ingredients.
“Whenever we have an opportunity to use something local, we will use it,” O’Phelan said.
O’Phelan said working for Lambert-Jackson has added new layers to their relationship. The pair sets careful boundaries to keep their work and home lives separated; at work, O’Phelan is just another employee. Outside of work, the mother and daughter enjoy spending time together, especially fishing, crabbing and engaging in other outdoor activities.
The cafe’s opening day was nothing short of an adventure, Lambert-Jackson said; the COVID-19 pandemic was still raging, and adverse weather had knocked out power in Coupeville that morning.
“We were prepared with our flashlights, and we just started prepping whatever we could start prepping with a flashlight and no electricity,” O’Phelan said. “We couldn’t put the ovens on or anything.”
It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing since then, but Lambert-Jackson said the cafe’s first year has gone well overall, with the team learning as they go. O’Phelan said she has enjoyed getting creative in the kitchen, developing new recipes and incorporating seasonal flavors into all baked goods, including the cafe’s gluten free, vegan and keto options.
Lambert-Jackson’s goal is to eventually get into the roasting business. She added that the addition of the cafe has been a boon to her family since her husband became permanently disabled after suffering two brain aneurysms and is unable to work. She is the sole breadwinner, and Cedar & Salt is her family’s livelihood.
Manager Chloe Planque has been working at Cedar & Salt from the beginning. Born and raised on Whidbey Island, she said she loves working for a small business, as she would like to own a small business herself someday.
“My whole career has been fast pace, small space,” she said. “I like the small town feel. I like the customers.”