The scent of sugar greets you before the cases of tempting pastries meet your eye. It’s impossible to choose from such a variety. But, also, how could you go wrong?
The Cottage Bakery had been a staple of the Long Beach community for years. So when the owners decided to sell, Lindy Swain and her family decided to take the opportunity.
Lindy and her husband Mark, along with her sister and brother-in-law, Casey and Jeff Harrell, started learning the behind-the-scenes of the bakery then took ownership in 2020. They’ve aimed to keep it largely unchanged, to preserve what people adore about the bakery. With one slight adjustment: The name.
Casey and Jeff’s young daughter Dylan had recently passed away, and they found it only fitting to rename the shop in her honor. In a place so full of sweetness and warmth, what better place to keep her memory alive.
Lindy tells us more about their journey as they grew with the business and the community:
Why did you choose to start a business in Pacific County?
We were already living here when the opportunity came up.
My husband and I moved here in 2019. My brother-in-law grew up on the peninsula, so he and my sister were already here.
They had a daughter, Dylan, who passed away from a rare brain cancer. We moved here to be closer to them in her final year of life. We were impressed with how tight-knit the community is, how it rallied around her and their family during her illness.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We became involved in the bakery in April 2020–soon after Dylan passed away. Bob and Judi Andrews, the previous bakery owners, had sent out a fax that essentially said they were closing down, in part because of COVID.
Well, Mark is from a small town in eastern Washington. He remembers when his small town bakery shut down and people had nowhere else to go. He said, The bakery cannot shut down; It’s a heart of the community.
The Cottage Bakery is an icon in the area. We all decided we needed to check it out. Mark and Jeff started going in at 2 AM, learning the ropes–the baking and the business. Then we bought it. And it became Dylan’s Cottage Bakery.
There are four of us; We’re all co-owners. Of the four of us, I’m the liaison to the bakery. We have a bakery manager who takes care of a lot, but I’m alsoinvolved in hiring, scheduling, payroll, etc.
What is unique about your business?
The variety of offerings we have. And that we make it all on-site.
I didn’t realize this before, but most places–like grocery stores–get frozen donuts that are already made. They just heat them up or fry them.
Every morning our bakers are making the donuts from scratch all the way. It’s rewarding when people come in, their eyes lighting up when they see like huge cases of fresh baked goods.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Learning that you don’t have to be everything for everybody.
We wanted to bring some new stuff in, and right away people were all over us on social media asking us if we were going to do vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, etc. We quickly came to realize we’d have to let other people fill those niches.
We’ve tried to provide some vegan and gluten-free items, but we just can’t be a gluten-free bakery. We accepted that and decided to stick with our tried-and-true stuff, to provide the quality products people have come to expect.
The second thing is that I used to get really down about the bad reviews. I really took those to heart. But I realized that people are going to say what they will and I don’t need to take everything so personally.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
We’re a part of everyone’s good memories, which is really special.
Some people come every year on their beach vacation, and they look forward what they get every summer. Like that certain sandwich from the bakery or the Dylan doughnut.
And making wedding and anniversary cakes–part of people’s traditions–is very rewarding.
And it’s so fun to watch kids walk in because their eyes just light up, they’re so excited. That’s our goal: To create memorable experiences for everyone that comes in.
How do you view your role in the community?
We’re a gathering place, where anyone in the community can drop in. Where someone can pick up donuts for their coworkers to make a Monday morning more enjoyable.
And it was huge to take over and add Dylan. For us, it keeps her memory alive. And we’re able to give back in her name as well.
Our focus for the community is on youth. We sponsor the peninsula youth sports. And for every Dylan Donut that’s bought, we donate to Dylan’s Foundation–which we’ve funneled to the local community center.
We also do a Dylan’s Warrior award, for the elementary schools. So every kid throughout the year gets a little award, where they get to come in and pick something out from the bakery. We want it to be a fun place for youth, and to support the local youth in the community.
How do you define success?
I feel successful when our employees are really happy. To me, that’s how I know we’re doing well. I love when an employee tells me they’re happy working here or they want to retire here Because that’s what we want: Happy people, happy customers.
If you had one piece of advice to offer someone starting a business in Pacific County, what would it be?
Remember that it’s a very small town, so your competitors are your friends and neighbors. But there’s enough business to go around. So, adopt that mindset of cooperation rather than competition.
And it’s kind of cliche, but take care of the community and the community will take care of you. It’s small here; Everyone looks out for each other. If you’re community-minded and do your part, the community will recognize that and patronize your business.
For any aspiring business owner in Pacific County, here are a few key takeaways from Lindy’s experience:
● You don’t have to please everyone. Be realistic about what you’re capable of providing and stay true to your vision.
● Put in the effort to keep your employees happy
● Bad reviews happen; Don’t take them personally
● Instead of getting competitive, work in cooperation with other businesses
● Take care of the community and the community will take care of you