Looking back as The Original Bakery enters second-to-last weekend

(2011 Alonzo family photo: Erich, Anna, and dad Bernie)

By Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog

Bernie Alonzo has had the tempting smell of fresh-baked bread in his lungs since he was a kid helping in his father’s bakery. When he and his wife, Lorraine, visited friends in West Seattle, they checked out the little bakery for sale in Fauntleroy. Buying it came naturally, and he’s been baking there since 1975.

Now nearly five decades later, he’ll be hanging up his apron on February 26. While tempting pastries, breads, and cookies fresh from the oven have kept people coming back for more, old-fashioned hospitality made The Original Bakery as much community center as business.

In a profile published in 2000 in the Fauntleroy Community Association‘s newsletter, Bernie explained that he was the fourth owner since the bakery opened in 1936 in the Adams Building at 45th Ave. SW and SW Wildwood Place. The founding owner’s name is lost to history, but Bill Latta owned it from the 1940s to the 1960s, then sold it to Florian Dunbar, who sold it to Bernie.

He kept “The Original Bakery” as the name, even though it’s legally “Bakery The Original.” In the early days, small neighborhood bakeries were common, so the deed made clear that this was the original bakery in Fauntleroy’s Endolyne business area.

Bernie established a routine of weighing out ingredients the afternoon before so he could start baking at 4:00 the next morning. He opened the door to customers at 7:30, Mondays through Saturdays. Young people needing work experience (including his three children) were often the ones behind the vintage display cases. After three decades of baking alone, daughter Anna Alonzo‘s arrival in 2009 after completing culinary school lightened his load.

As tastes changed over the years, Bernie responded by shifting to healthier recipes. In 2000, he recalled one of the biggest changes.

“I never thought espresso would be such an integral part of our business,” he said. “When we bought the first espresso machine in the 1980s, many people didn’t know what espresso was!”

Bernie looked forward to special orders, somewhat because they varied his routine but mostly because they enabled him to share in birthdays, weddings, or whatever his customers were celebrating. Over the decades he donated countless cakes and cookies in support of whatever good cause sought him out. He also enjoyed giving local artists free wall space in the bakery’s seating area.

Whether making sure customers knew they could sit awhile over their favorite pastries or always baking what people most enjoyed, a big part of what The Original Bakery long offered was constancy in the midst of change.

“You try to survive in business,” Bernie said in 2000, “but having people appreciate you as an important part of the community is a real plus. It’s been a nice reward for me.”

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alonzo kids helped their dad brainstorm how to safely continue to serve customers. His solution was to add a walk-up window and reduce hours. After operating that way for two-plus years, Bernie decided the time had come for him to start sleeping in. With Anna’s top priority being to raise her daughter, she was not in a position to take on the business.

“Since we announced our closing, we have been very busy every day, which is great,” she said. “We have also had an outpouring of good wishes and appreciation from the neighborhood.

“Folks have been bringing cards and saying goodbye and we’ve had former customers come from afar to say best wishes and thank you. It’s been very heartwarming.”

Stop by if you can (9253 45th Ave. SW) before The Original Bakery closes on Sunday, February 26, at 3:00 pm.

5 Replies to "Looking back as The Original Bakery enters second-to-last weekend"

  • waikikigirl February 18, 2023 (10:13 am)

    If my Grandmother in-law was still here with us I bet she would know who the original owner was, lived in this WS area forever…but she’s in Heaven now baking cookies.

  • Brian February 19, 2023 (8:29 am)

    I am really going to miss this place!  Trying not to be mad at the dude who ordered six maple bars…but the maple Persian is not a step down!

  • wlcg06 February 19, 2023 (9:52 am)

    Just heard this news while standing in line at the bakery. Can’t believe I missed this story and been wondering what the line has been all about. I am very happy for Bernie, and our entire family wishes him a blessed retirement! We have cherished the OB and it was THE first place we went 12 years ago when our family moved from Western NY into the neighborhood after taking a job in Seattle. It was the most welcoming place to go and the people that worked there were always so friendly and ready to chit chat when you walked in. Our family has been regular ever since. We will miss you! 

  • Sara February 19, 2023 (1:20 pm)

    Thank you Bernie for offering us your friendly service over the years.  Hopefully a bakery with healthier choices can take your place, such as the Great Harvest bakery that used to exist on California Avenue.  We liked the whole grain whole wheat bread products and pastries they used to sell there.  Any West Seattleites interested in one of their franchises?   Our  grateful family will be among your first customers!

  • Debbie Baden February 27, 2023 (2:56 pm)

    My great uncle was Bill Latta & he owned what was known as Latta’s Bakery . My grandfather was John Latta . My grandparents lived a block away from the bakery on SW Brace Point Dr – I would walk to the bakery and say hello to my great aunt Louise Latta who worked behind the counter. She would always give me a cookie & let me watch her slice bread with the slicing machine. My great uncle would take me behind the counter to the back room so I could watch the bread being baked in the oven that had a Ferris-wheel kind of set-up: it rotated the loaves so they cooked evenly on all sides. They ran the bakery all the years I was growing- up. & would hire area high school kids to help wait on customers. Fond memories. Thank you Judy for the article – Debbie

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