Native Islander Raquel Stanek is no stranger to creativity, initiative and hard work. As a teenager at Bainbridge High School, she discovered the art of mosaics through a summer class offered by Bainbridge Island Parks and Metro Recreation District. She immediately fell in love with the process and the colorful nature of mosaic art. In the beginning she made mosaic “gazing balls” using foam balls that ranged from baseball to bowling ball sizes that could be set afloat in a pond or other water feature.
She continued to learn about the craft, studying the history and techniques. By the summer of 1999, Raquel was selling her works at the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council’s annual garden tour. In 2000, she joined the Bainbridge Island Studio Tour. From there, her popularity grew and she began to expand, creating colorful animals, furniture and other mosaic art. By 2009, her work was shown at Bainbridge Arts & Crafts, as well as national trade shows and Bainbridge Island’s Tour de Coop. In 2013, Raquel received the prestigious Amy Award through Bainbridge Arts and Crafts and Arts & Humanities Bainbridge.
When Raquel’s daughter was born, she decided to put her mosaic work on hold. As any new parent knows, taking care of a baby is a fulltime job and Raquel wanted to put her all into it. In addition, working with small pieces of glass on a regular basis isn’t a very good idea when you have a small child running around. When her daughter reached pre-school age, Raquel joined her husband, Travis Adena working part-time at their gym, TWF Bainbridge. Then the pandemic hit, and everything changed.
Travis and Raquel switched to a Zoom model for the gym, which meant less hours, and a bit more free time. To keep busy, she turned to baking—specifically sourdough bread. She began by creating her own starter, a days long process that requires a bit of science, combined with patience, experimentation and meticulous tending. As she recalled, “the first loaf was a complete dud.” However, she kept working on it, learning as she went and discovering new methods to improve the starter. She utilized social media and online groups to hone her technique, eventually coming up with something akin to perfection.
It wasn’t easy though; she learned the hard way that a standard kitchen oven isn’t really the right tool for making multiple loaves of bread. Utilizing stimulus funds, she was able to purchase a Rofco bread oven. However, finding the perfect cast iron pans during the pandemic became another hurdle, but perseverance paid off and she was able to source speckled camp pans, which worked great for baking the breads and were easier to find.
In 2020 she decided to sell her home baked breads via a farmstand in her front yard. It was initially a simple operation, a few baskets of bread and a cash box. It wouldn’t be long before word spread throughout the island and she began to sell out within a few short hours. As she said, “it was really great during the pandemic because it was self-serve and outdoors.” Often times, people would come by several times a day to see if a new batch was available at the farmstand. “Being able to provide fresh baked bread is such a pleasure,” she said, “especially when someone gets there just as a new batch was ready.” People would actually hug the warm loaves, burying their faces into the bags to inhale the aroma.
As popularity grew, she expanded to baking English muffins and cookies, she also took her baked goods to the Bainbridge Island Farmers market, selling out within the first few hours. Using their Japanese mini-truck, Raquel would occasionally park downtown on Winslow and sell directly from the bed of truck, always selling out quickly. By 2021, Raquel was baking between 160 and 200 loaves a week, along with her other baked goods.
By December 2021, Raquel decided to scale back on the muffins and cookies and concentrate on her breads. She purchased a mill so she could mill spelt, rye and wheat, which she (mostly) sources from Nash Organic Farm in Sequim. By the time the Ukrainian war broke out, inflation had made it untenable to go back to other baked goods, “I was glad I pivoted before inflation,” she said, as supplies had increased in cost by as much as 40%.
Raquel recounted a few fun stories, such as the Seattle family that came over to camp on the island and stopped at her stand, only to find out she’d run out that day. They came back the next day as she was just getting ready to put out a fresh batch. When they purchased their bread, they ripped into the loaf before they made it back to their vehicle—yeah, it’s that good!
Another story she shared dates back to 2021, when three local families made a generous offer to purchase her breads for our local food bank, Helpline House. They purchased six months of freshly baked loaves to be donated. Raquel delivers the fourteen loaves weekly to Helpline House and learned that it is the most popular item available, their clients even arrange their shopping days around her delivery, as it goes very fast. Knowing she’s able to provide something nourishing and special to those in need makes it all worth it. If you’d like to participate in the Neighbor 2 Neighbor Initiative, click here.
Today Raquel offers her classic sourdough daily from Tuesday through Saturday, from 8am until inventory sells out for the day. However, you can pre-order on her website, and/or join her bread club to ensure you’re never out of her delicious sourdough, click here for details. She also makes specialty sourdough on different days during the week, such as Danish Rugbrod Rye, seeded multi-grain, and cranberry walnut.
Visit her website here: Freshest Sourdough Bread on Bainbridge Island – Raquels Farm Stand
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