Article: Bend Bulletin August 30, 2011

A sweet alternative in a cowboy town
Angeline’s Bakery continues to bring new food ideas to Sisters

By Jordan Novet / The Bulletin
August 30. 2011

Angeline Rhett, owner of Angeline’s Bakery, started her Sisters business from a red wooden wagon in the mid-1990s.

The basics:
What: Angeline’s Bakery LLC
Where: 121 W. Main St., Sisters
Employees: 12
Phone: 541-549-9122

SISTERS — Angeline Rhett moved here from Portland in 1995 to fight fires. When the fire season ended, she decided to stick around, and she needed money to live.

The best idea she could think of? Making food from scratch — something she had enjoyed doing while growing up in Portland — and selling it on an informal basis.

She connected with the owner of Northern Lights Bakery, which occupied the space Angeline’s now owns, on West Main Avenue in Sisters, and arranged to make her own sandwiches and bake cookies in the bakery’s kitchen. She sold her goods throughout Sisters from a red wooden wagon.

It was a primitive operation, but it was a start.

In 1996, Rhett bought Northern Lights’ assets and took over the business and the entire space early in 1997. When it came time to make new signs a year or two later, she changed the name to Angeline’s Bakery & Cafe.

Rhett, now 42, said her business has adapted to better fit her life in the 16 years she has owned it. Her role in the bakery has waxed and waned to accommodate changes such as having children. And, now that they’re older, she said she is back to full-time work, sometimes getting up at 4 a.m. to bake and at other times going in late to roll bagels.

Instead of acting on market trends or even information from her customers, Rhett has followed her own passions to make decisions about what she makes and sells.

Over the years, Rhett has become involved in gluten-free baking, making products without sugar, eating raw foods and blending smoothies made from vegetables grown in her garden across the street from the bakery.

Inspired, she has worked those offerings into the menu, without worrying about peddling “alternative” selections in Sisters, which she calls a “cowboy town.” About three years ago, for example, she became a vegan, and so did most products on the menu, she said.

Her instincts have brought her financial success. The business grew during the recession and continues to grow, she said. She credits small-business management courses she took through Central Oregon Community College in the past few years with teaching her how to run the business more efficiently, adjust prices and make other improvements. She also believes the people in the area have become more interested in eating healthier food.

Q: Do you feel that you have changed Sisters and the people visiting, or that people have changed and you’ve responded in turn?

A: I think it’s both. I mean, I think that can be said for anyone or anything. …

Q: I get the feeling that there’s more innovation in food in Eugene, or even in Portland. How come you’re not running your business in one of those cities?

A: I’ve lived here. … I moved here in ’95. So I’ve lived here for a long time. I’m established here. My kids go to school here. … I love to go to Portland, but my community’s here.

Q: How do you think the business will change in the future?

A: I’m ready to incorporate more. You know, we have our garden. It’s across the street. We have the music piece, which I feel just brings the community together. We do the food, and we’re experimental, and we’re trying to be forward-thinking with that and (tying) it in with the garden.

But I’m looking for a place to bring that all together. … If I were to have a dream vision, that is my vision, to be able to create a bakery. I would love to live up above it, and have the bakery with a community space for the music and then my gardens and stuff to help sustain that piece. Even having some rooms, so people can either volunteer and work in the gardens (or) pay for their rooms … . I can see that coming to fruition at some point.

Q: Is this your perfect job?

A: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It really is. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I come to work skipping with bouquets of flowers every day. But even the challenges are things I need to learn, in business, but also in my life. It’s my perfect job. I love it. It’s perfect.

Q: Would you ever stop running this place and hand it to someone else, or sell it or close it?

A: Well, an interesting thing has happened in the last year or so. My son (Simon) is 8 and very much an entrepreneur and will be. He’ll probably be the first person in our family to make a million dollars. Sometimes I’ll come home (and say), “Oh, God, I’m exhausted. You know what? I think we should just sell the bakery and move to Antarctica or something.” … He’ll be like, “No, no, that’s going to be my bakery!” … It gives me a different perspective that someday maybe it would be taken over by one of my kids, or that it would move on to someone else (when) I’m done with it. It has made me think about my business in a whole different way, that it’s not just about me, but that it could be potentially about passing it along or something. … I always thought that I would probably just build it up and sell it. I definitely can see it (being) handed over.