Farm adds pie cafe

Jan Gunn, Whidbey Island
Jan Gunn, Whidbey Island's master of pies, carries another tray of her creations into her new Whidbey Pies Cafe at the Greenbank Farm.
— image credit: Jim Larsen

When Greenbank Farm Manager Laura Blankenship was looking for a cafe operator, she simply looked up the hill and found Jan Gunn, maker of the world-famous Whidbey Pies.

Gunn seemed plenty busy in her 700-square-foot pie factory in Greenbank, turning out hundreds of pies for her Northwest fans. Last week she handed more than 256 pies to her distributor, who places them in stores from the San Juans to Tacoma.

But Gunn also saved some pies for her new endeavor. For busy as she is, she took Blankenship up on the idea of starting a cafe at the historic, publicly owned Greenbank Farm.

Whidbey Pies Cafe opened two weeks ago to community acclaim.

"The place was packed Saturday and Sunday," said Blankenship, who took some local criticism when she closed the farm's gift shop this winter.

The popular wine-tasting bar and sales room now take up the gift shop space, while the cafe is operating where the wine bar was located.

"It appears pretty successful to me," Blankenship said after the cafe's opening week.

Early one morning, Gunn lugged a large tray of pies into the cafe where Mike Diamanti, owner of Island Coffee, was already at work. Diamanti's coffee, manufactured by Mukilteo Coffee Co. to Whidbey Island tastes, is another cafe attraction.

"It's Jan's place," said Diamanti. "But it features Island Coffee and Whidbey Pies."

The cafe is a community effort, and Gunn proudly described her "Greenbank gal friends down here scrubbing the floors" to prepare the room. Local carpenters and craftsmen built the coffee bar and tables, and locally made art is beginning to decorate the walls. Pottery by Sue Lashley is presently featured.

The menu is limited but tempting, with the main attraction being Gunn's tasty pies. They come in several varieties, but her specialty is loganberry. She grows some of the berries herself and imports others from Oregon, but dreams of the near future when the farm produces enough loganberries for her operation. They planted 500 loganberry starts last year and they're "doing great," Gunn said.

What exists now is only the start of a dream.

"I love this space," Gunn said. "It's my neighborhood. I've been here 20 years."

She envisions the time when the farm's three historic barns are full of artists at work, and the farmland is abloom with loganberries and vegetable laden pea patches. Locally made arts and crafts will be plentiful and available for tourists to purchase.

As Gunn talks, Stacey Habeck carries in an armful of her Stacey's Screaming Banshee Bread -- flat loaves of whole wheat, Tuscany white and foccacia. It'll go well with Gunn's soup of the day, chicken teriyaki, which she was up late making the night before.

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