It’s Saturday morning at the Point Roberts Community Center, and a knot of people gather around the corner booth at Your Local Small Market. Ollie Otter Bakery is offering a selection of scones, breads, cookies and petite delectable treats. The jewels in the display case are the lavishly frosted cupcakes. In a few hours everything will be gone.
“I’ve always wanted to own a bakery,” Kathleen Friedman says, “And Point Roberts is the only place where there isn’t one on each corner. I put myself through grad school with my baking.” Now Kathleen is combining two loves – her career as a professor and her joy for baking. With a PhD in education from Capella University in Minnesota, she has 20 years’ experience teaching and mentoring doctoral candidates online. Kathleen does data analysis for students completing their research. If her analysis matches theirs, good. If she finds inconsistencies, they are back to the drawing board.
But back to the bakery. Sitting in a kitchen that smells like ambrosia, I watch Kathleen lift bread loaves from the oven. She’s trying out a unique Japanese loaf pan, consisting of interlocking pieces of wood, which she disassembles to free four perfectly baked loaves. “I love experimenting. I don’t like to do the same recipe twice.” Her inventiveness means she doesn’t have to follow recipes. She creates them.
Mitch Friedman enters the kitchen, ready for his day of substitute teaching at Point Roberts Primary School. He enters easily into the conversation. “Kathleen’s always been my motivation,” he says. “When we met, she was raising a young child and doing a doctorate.” She was also baking, I’m thinking, stuffing my feelings of culinary envy. “We help each other out a lot,” Mitch continues. “With Kathleen, it’s always worked.”
She chuckles. “Well, Mitch has appeased me a lot. He’s very supportive.”
Mitch bakes too, specializing in cookies. They have a Cottage License for their business, which means there can only be 50 items, with all ingredients listed, and no meat or cheese products. “Nothing that needs refrigeration, that’s key for safety,” Kathleen says.
Though both are originally from California, they met online in Portland. “It was one of the first dating apps, 20 years ago,” Mitch says, “It centered on food. We visited fine restaurants.” Kismet.
They became a blended family with three sons. “Yours, mine and ours,” Kathleen says. The two older sons are on their way to adulthood; the bakery is named for their seven-year-old son, Ollie.
Kathleen’s introduction to Point Roberts happened years ago. “My grandparents came here from California,” Kathleen says. “They had a summer place and my brothers and sister and I visited. I remember the candy store, the roller rink. I was about five. When my grandparents sold the cottage, I threw a temper tantrum and vowed I would make it back here.”
And so she did. In January, 2020 they bought a house and – with her older son, Gavin, in university – Kathleen moved here with Ollie. Mitch continued to work in Portland and parent his teenaged son, Zack. With a degree in elementary education, Mitch was teaching, but had to leave the classroom when the pandemic hit. “So, I went back to geology – my first degree from Oregon State – and managed construction projects.”
Last August he was able to join his family in Point Roberts. Zack visits from Portland and work opportunities opened up. Mitch is substitute teaching in Blaine and in Point Roberts, where Ollie is one of his students. “It’s working out well. We do a lot of communicating. I was a stay-at-home dad for two years; there’s a close bond.”
Kathleen and Mitch are foodies from widely different backgrounds. “I grew up on a dairy goat farm,” Kathleen says. “Before it was cool to go from farm to table; that’s how I grew up.” Mitch’s grandfather ran a deli in Queens, New York. Food is in their blood.
And now so is Point Roberts. “Everyone talks about the beauty around us,” Kathleen says. “I also see the beauty within. The beauty within the people. The talent here ... for me it’s unique. This amazing culture of talent. Knitters, quilters, beekeepers, actors, writers, movie producers. All of this breeds creativity.”
Point Roberts is benefitting from their creativity. “Kathleen puts her heart and soul into cooking and baking,” Mitch says. “The bakery – she backed into it. She loves it and wants to please everyone. Talent and skill, yes, but it comes from in here.” He taps his chest. From within.
To make its mark as Point Roberts’ first ever bakery, Ollie Otter needs to be exceptional. And it is. Checking out the website, I’m making a list. The breads, the cakes! Everything is baked to order, and here’s their bottom line: “We can make just about anything you can dream up.”
Check out the Ollie Otter Bakery at ollieotterbakery.com
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