The Calico Cupboard Cafe and Bakery in La Conner was opened in 1981 by the late Linda Freed. Linda started the bakery 40 years ago with a passion for baking that she and her grandmother had shared. Brenda Schmidt began working for Linda right out of college in 1989, “I graduated from WSU in Business Administration and had hands-on restaurant experience gained from my dad owning a small Cafe,” says Brenda Schmidt, General Manager. Because Linda was a fellow WSU Coug and Brenda shared the same love of baking, Brenda was hired!
After training under Linda for a year, Brenda was up-to-speed on cooking and baking, ordering inventory, accounts receivable and payable, scheduling, and all the other necessary tasks to manage the Cafe. The training was so that Linda could pursue her love of traveling, where she planned her first month of travels to the base camp of Mount Everest. “Needless to say, being nervous about being left for a month with little contact with Linda, all went well while Linda was away,” says Brenda.
Calico Cupboard Expands Over the Year
In 1991, Brenda assisted in opening the second Calico Cupboard in Anacortes and the third to follow in Mount Vernon in 1996. In 2004, Linda opened Seeds Bistro to share Linda’s love for the farming and bounty of all the locally grown crops in Skagit Valley with dinner fare. Brenda oversaw Seeds as well until it sold in 2018. Brenda continues to manage all three locations. “It has been a very wonderful and rewarding journey,” says Brenda
Made from Scratch
The entire menu is supported with Calico’s made-from-scratch baked goods. “We make everything, all our bread for sandwiches, hamburger buns, English muffins, cookies, bars, pies, desserts, cinnamon rolls, and pastries,” says Brenda. The menu is an eclectic blend of traditional favorites with a Calico Cupboard twist. Many of the recipes were from Linda and her grandmother. Over the years, Brenda and the staff have added some family favorites to the menu. “We are always looking for something new and different to add to keep our menu exciting,” says Brenda.
The best-selling items are the Brussels Sprout Hash, Skagit Hash, Cinnamon Roll french toast, Washington Turkey Sandwich, Hearty Grain Bread, Cinnamon Rolls, Triple Berry Pie, Lemon Bars, Quiche, Ginger Molasses Cookies, mimosa flights, bloody marys, and signature fresh-squeezed lemonades. “We are very proud of the fact that the food served at Calico Cupboard is honestly made from scratch using an unusually high standard of food quality and lots of old-fashioned goodness,” says Brenda.
Details are in the Ingredients
“We are a locally owned family business that takes pride in providing made from scratch comfort food to our community and visitors,” says Brenda. Fresh and unprocessed ingredients are used whenever possible. The bakery products are made at Calico Cupboard with freshly milled, organically grown whole grain and unbleached flours, honey, and other natural ingredients. The soups, salads, and sandwiches are carefully made daily using the freshest produce, lots of fiber-rich beans, and grains. There are many meatless and heart-healthy, and gluten-free options.
40th Year in Business
Calico Cupboard is celebrating 40 years in business and now has around 100 employees, seasonally upwards of 130, many of which have worked for Calico Cupboard for over ten years and upwards of 35 years. “I love working with our staff and our favorite customers, who travel from near and far on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, and many of which eat at all three of our locations,” says Brenda. Skagit Valley is fortunate to have Calico Cupboard as part of the community. Calico has given back to the community in many ways, including the sweetest buns in town partnering with the sweetest paws in town – the Humane Society of Skagit Valley. Thank you, Calico, for all you do!