Pat’s Is Done

Another Kitsap Sun staffer called and said Pat’s was closed.

After making different phone calls to try to verify this, I eventually drove to the site and saw the evidence. We still don’t have official verification, but the sign in the window says enough.

Pat’s Restaurant & Bakery, located in the same shopping center as Grocery Outlet and the former Stupid Prices, appears to be the latest victim of the sour economy.

I tried to call the restaurant but the line was disconnected. I tried to call the woman who is listed as the owner, but left a message at a place I’m not sure was hers.

The Washington Secretary of State’s office shows Pat’s was incorporated in 1992, but that would have been its current incarnation. A Kitsap Sun story names the start date of Pat’s as 1981. Originally it was Pat’s Cookie Jar.

Last year, in anticipation of a story on the county’s assumption of a $40.5 million loan from the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority, Josh Brown and I sat down and discussed the matter over breakfast at Pat’s. True to his thrifty image he ordered a $5 breakfast special. I ordered a regular breakfast and was wowed by it.

Months later I took my 2-year-old back with me for another morning meeting of sorts. He loved it, but he won’t miss it. I will.

Less than a year ago Sun reporter Rachel Pritchett wrote about increasing food prices and the effect it was having on consumers and food sellers. The story included a bit from Pat’s.

At Pat’s Restaurant and Bakery in East Bremerton, owner Mildred Whiteside is trying to hold back prices by sending employees home early and donning an apron herself.

“I don’t know how long we can,” she said.

A hunk of cheese that cost her $15 several months ago now costs $30, she said. Grill oil that recently cost $20 now costs $39, she said.

Higher fuel prices have resulted in fewer people visiting her restaurant, and her suppliers have added a $7-per-visit fuel surcharge.

“Oh, we’ve felt it really bad,” Whiteside said.

That’s quite a contrast from the story JoAnne Marez wrote in 1996. The piece was titled, “Rolling in Dough.” You can read it after the jump.

From 1996:
A former bank trust operations officer has baked the pies, prepared the rolls and set the table For today’s feast at Pat’s Restaurant & Bakery.

By JoAnne Marez
Sun Staff

The unmistakable scent of cinnamon tickles your nose and the aroma of fresh-baked bread fills Pat’s Restaurant & Bakery at 3561 Wheaton Way in East Bremerton.

It’s the annual, all-night baking marathon as the restaurant staff slaves through the night to produce enough desserts and dinner rolls to meet the Thanksgiving demand.

By the time a weary baking staff was heading for home Wednesday morning, customers already were lining up to pick up the culinary treasures.

The Herculean effort clearly was worth it, says owner Pat Connelly.

Row after row of fresh-baked pies — 200 in all — were neatly stacked in the walk-in cooler.
Fifty dozen rolls sat bagged and ready for someone’s Thanksgiving table. And dozens of specialty cakes, cookies and pastries were packed in cartons, ready for holiday munching.

Pat’s began 15 years ago as a cookie shop, then branched out to serve soups and sandwiches.

Before she knew it, this former bank trust operations officer had a full-fledged restaurant on her hands.

“I’d never even been a waitress,” Connelly said Tuesday night, brushing flour from her face. She’d been rolling out pie crust in the kitchen. “I was sick of commuting to Seattle and all these cookie shops were opening up. I thought, I can do that.”

So she called her sister, Carol Shoemaker, who lived in Forks, and asked if she’d go into business with her.

“She moved her family here and said she’d give me six months,” Connelly said. “She stayed 10 years.”

Connelly said they used family recipes and rented a sliver of space in East Bremerton’s Wheaton Mall. Within three months they added soup and sandwiches to the menu to keep afloat. “Things just kept doing so well, we expanded twice,” she said.

Today there are plenty of booths and tables, the lunch counter and a banquet room that holds nearly two dozen. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week with breakfast and lunch only on Sundays. Often they’re so busy, customers line up waiting for a table.

The dinner trade was brisk Tuesday night with a 15-person banquet also booked. So while the cook dished up platters of herbed chicken and steaming bowls of homemade soups, Connelly, Scott and Mary Lucke and Carla Carlson tackled the baking.

It was Mary’s first stab at the job; normally she’s a waitress there. She met husband Scott on the job before he quit a few years ago to work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Tonight he’s been drafted for the duration.

While Scott whips up the filling for chocolate cream pies, Mary adds cups of pecans to batter for a holiday favorite, pecan pie. Nearby racks of pie shells, already made from scratch by Connelly, await the rich filling.

Carlson already has mixed bowl after bowl of the pumpkin custard and the bakers are shoving pies, 12 at a time, into the three ovens.

Huge bins of bread dough are rising. Nearby a mixture of raspberries, sugar and tapioca is waiting to be poured into pie shells.

Connelly just keeps rolling pie dough as she talks.

The secret of their baked goods, she said, are the good recipes and quality ingredients.

Nearby are 30-pound boxes of chopped pecans — at $100 a box — and most of the 100 dozen of eggs they’d ordered. Slabs of butter are mixed into recipe after recipe.

“We never skimp,” Connelly said.

Timers keep going off as pies come and go from the hot oven. Scott starts forming dinner rolls, weighing each glob of dough so the rolls will be uniform in size.

“The hard part is getting everything baked,” Connelly said. “Last year we still were baking at 10 o’clock the next morning.”

The demand for her baked goods was evident from the beginning, especially after they took their famous cinnamon rolls to the Kitsap County Fair.

connelly said they mixed huge batches of dough in the restaurant, carted it to the fairgrounds, rolled it out in front of people on a stainless steel table and baked the rolls fresh in portable ovens.

“We couldn’t keep up with the demand,” she said. “The best advertisement is the finished product.”

Keeping a business like hers going takes humor and a cool head. Once, when a windstorm blew out the front window of the restaurant, she and husband Tim (who also used to work there) had return late at night to clean it up.

“We live in Poulsbo and had just gotten home when (CenCom) called us and said our window had been damaged,” she recalled. “We drove in and this nice policeman had been holding onto the drapes so they wouldn’t be torn.”

They found someone to board up the window and began the task of cleaning up the shards of glass that had littered the restaurant.

“Before we knew it we had customers coming in,” she said, laughing. “So we made coffee and kept on as if nothing had happened. When there’s a power outage, our business just booms.”

The restaurant is closed today, giving the staff a much needed breather.

But believe it or not, she said, Friday starts the beginning of the Christmas holiday. “We start baking the Christmas cookies,” she said. “We do 20 different kinds and we can hardly keep up with the demand.”

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