See what these bakers are cooking up in Kennewick
When Elena Gavin and her sister, Concetta Gulluni, were growing up in Vancouver, B.C., their lives revolved around their “big, Italian” family’s bakery.
Their grandparents owned it. Their parents met there.
Everyone worked there, from childhood through high school and college.
The extended family is involved in other aspects of the food industry — delis, cafes, importing.
“We’re very passionate about food,” said Elena Gavin.
Their mother steered the sisters in another direction, encouraging both to develop interests beyond the daily grind of the bakery universe.
Gavin studied sociology and worked in hospitals. Gulluni worked in geology and went to law school.
But the family business always lingered in the background.
Now, a year after starting a wedding cake business they operated in a leased kitchen in Prosser, Gavin and Gulluni are headed to Kennewick.
They’ve purchased a historic building in downtown Kennewick and are remaking into a a cake studio.
Layered Cake Artistry will move into its own kitchen by mid-2019. In the interim, the thriving business has moved into leased space at Red Mountain Commercial Kitchen.
Red Mountain opened this fall at the former Music Machine, just a few blocks away on West Kennewick Avenue.
There is a certain inevitability to baking, Gulluni and Gavin said.
Gulluni and Gavin and their young families came to the Tri-Cities — by way of Michigan — two years ago when Gavin’s husband moved his medical practice to Richland.
Gulluni, always the baker of the family, began making cakes. Her elaborate birthday cakes led to special orders.
A year ago, Gulluni decided to make it official. She recruited her sister to help run the business side.
They began as a tenant at the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser.
The arrangement provided a workable, if awkward, start for the enterprise. Since they couldn’t store ingredients at Walter Clore, they they had to bring everything with them, including mixers and other specialized baking gear.
They limited themselves to wedding cakes and desserts and marketed the business through pop-ups and winery related events. Customers got to know them at Anelare Winery, Goose Ridge Vineyards, The Local Coffee House and even in a clothing store at Columbia Center.
They began 2018 with modest goals. They figured most couples marrying last year would have selected a baker for their wedding cakes already. They thought they’d be doing well if they booked six weddings.
They underestimated demand for their contemporary, elegant-bordering-on-edgy style.
Orders poured in and not just from local couples. A surprising number of western Washington couples needed cakes for destination weddings at Mid-Columbia wineries.
With limited kitchen access, bookings were limited to two weddings per weekend day. On one particularly busy weekend, Layered Cake Artistry delivered four wedding cakes and 700 desserts.
“That has just blown up,” Gavin said.
Realizing they needed a kitchen to call their own, the sisters put out feelers.
Downtown Kennewick won them over with its walkability, charm and reviving spirit. They were attracted by the new Red Mountain Commerical Kitchen, which recently opened at the former Music Machine, and by plans for a culinary school on the Columbia River waterfront.
They found their spot at 117 W. Kennewick Ave. Originally built as a grocery, the old building has housed night clubs, restaurants, antique malls and more recently, a pizzeria. They saw a gem hidden behind the multiple renovations.
In October, they paid $250,000 for the 7,000-square-foot store building, which shares a wall with the Tri-Cities’ original J.C. Penney’s store.
They’ve gutted the interior walls and pulled out utilities, a layer of concrete flooring, kitchen vents and wall plaster.
Demolition can reveal unpleasant surprises, but Gavin and Gulluni said they had contractors pore over the building before they bought it. So far, the only surprises have been good ones.
The old kitchen vents concealed skylights. Plaster obscured an original brick wall.
Even in its current condition, the space has an obvious creative vibe that Layered Cake Artistry is incorporating into its rebuild. It will retain the exposed brick wall.
The bakery, consulting rooms and demonstration kitchen will occupy half the building. The other half will be available for lease. The entire front will get a facelift that includes a foyer-style entrance with doors leading to each half of the building.
“It’s just beautiful,” Gavin said.
While the building is under renovations, Layered Cake Artistry will be the first tenant at Red Mountain.
“Every time we go down there, we just leave saying, ‘I love it here,’” Gavin said.
Once it moves into its own building, Layered Cake Artistry will expand beyond wedding cakes to offer other desserts, including birthday cakes.
Gulluni and Gavin don’t intend to operate Layered Cake Artistry as a retail bakery with regular business hours. They call it a “cake studio” rather than bakery. Fans won’t have to press their faces to the window, though.
There are always leftovers and the business will offer informal business hours, selling desserts and coffee.
Pearce Moody Construction Co., a Walla Walla contractor with experience redeveloping old buildings, is the contractor on the project. The designs were finalized last week and the rebuild will start as soon as building permits are in place.
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