Plan for new Bakery Nouveau is ready for the oven on Capitol Hill

Prototype for a “Buche de Mayan” — Let’s hope they were wrong about 2012 so we live to see Bakery Nouveau Capitol Hill (Image: Bakery Nouveau)

We were once croissant-less. Capitol Hill, now home to the hottest, most-hyped patisserie in the city in Crumble & Flake is planned to be a second home for another renowned Seattle purveyor of pastry, CHS has learned.

West Seattle’s Bakery Nouveau has launched plans for a new shop on Capitol Hill in one of the most unlikely retail locations in the neighborhood.

“The focus will be more patisserie — over the top cakes, candies, kick-ass sandwiches — more four-star dining between two pieces of bread,” founder William Leaman tells CHS about his planned expansion — Nouveau’s first since debuting six years ago in Leaman’s home neighborhood of West Seattle.


A call earlier this fall to the captain of the gold-medal U.S. team in the 2005 World Cup of Baking brought a request to “wait a few weeks.” Now the paperwork is in motion — but there is still a very long wait for this plan to be baked.

The West Seattle Blog went behind the scenes in Leaman’s kitchen (Image: Christopher Boffoli/ WSB with permission)

The planned location for the Capitol Hill foray is surprising — especially given the amount of new construction and retail space being created around the Hill. The new Bakery Nouveau is being planned for a commercial unit in the East John Court development along 15th Ave E that has stood empty since the building went up more than five years ago. CHS looked at the problem child of Capitol Hill commercial real estate here in 2011 — What’s wrong with the retail space at John Court? The short answer has been no parking, large (and therefore expensive) units and lack of infrastructure required to host a full-bore restaurant.

Leaman said working with DPD to come up with a suitable plan to build a bakery in the challenged space is all that stands between us and a new Nouveau. Apparently other ventures have tried to make the space work before — and failed.

“There’s been like three or four entities who have tried,” Leaman said. “The space has some limitations.”

How Bakery Nouveau will sort all of that out remains to be seen. But Leaman is adamant that the project won’t go forward if he cannot bake on Capitol Hill.

“You fall out of the terms,” Leaman said. “You can’t call yourself an artisan baker if you’re putting product on the truck to be transported from different locations.” He’s not talking about Seattle regulations there — these are Leaman rules.

Having built Bakery Nouveau near his West Seattle home, Leaman said he also is planning his Capitol Hill venture as a local endeavor. No, he won’t be moving to Capitol Hill. Instead, Leaman said he has two chiefs of staff — “One for sweet, one for savory,” he said — ready to lead the new bakery toward the lofty, flaky, crispy, rich, beautifully constructed heights of the first Nouveau. Sweet and Savory live around the Hill, apparently. We look forward to introducing you to them as the story unfolds.

Inside the West Seattle original (Image: Christopher Boffoli/ WSB with permission)

The East John Court problems aside, the planned venture could mark yet more food and drink investment along 15th Ave where new players like Rione XIII and The Wandering Goose have filled-in alongside upgrading veterans and others are doubling down on their presence on the suddenly busy street.

It also presents a solution for croisant-loving Capitol Hillites who’d rather walk uphill than downhill to get their fill of perfect pastry. Neil Robertson opened his Crumble & Flake on E Olive Way in May and the lines have lessened but not yet faded away.

Both Robertson and Leaman were featured in this recent City Arts piece about Seattle’s “bad ass” bakers: Robertson is the lone artist, Leaman the “a polymath-ubergeek-mad scientist-varsity captain” –

Akin to Camas Country Mill, Pure Éire uses a French-made DeLaval system that processes milk with minimal heat output. “It pasteurizes but it doesn’t homogenize, which totally destroys flavor,” Leaman says, slivering his butter onto a nub of baguette. “You tell me.”

The flavor is musky and bright and immediately addictive.

“My goal is to make my own butter,” Leaman says, effusive. “No other bakery that I know of is crazy enough to do that.”

This rather fascinating look at the Bakery Nouveau business from a baking industry perspective helps explain some of the secrets of Leaman’s West Seattle success:

What works is Leaman’s innate sense for what West Seattle residents want in a bakery. He hit the nail on the head from the beginning with the product mix. When developing the product line, Leaman focused on creating products that would keep the bakery busy all day with pastries for breakfast, breads for lunchtime sandwiches and a variety of chocolates and desserts for all-day treats. “I try to give them [customers] something they can relate to, but also have some French cakes and pastries. I try to tap the world of artisan bakery and also high-end desserts and candy. I torment myself a lot with all three.”

Leaman tells CHS he hopes to invest in Capitol Hill the same way he has invested in West Seattle.

“We’ve created more than 35 jobs. More or less, we’ll be doing the same thing for Capitol Hill,” he said. “Creating something that will be active during all dayparts.”

That’s the economic pitch. He’s not yet ready to talk about the specifics of the plan for the new bakery space like details on seating or the display cases let alone consider a possible target for opening. He knows there will be no pizza — DPD has already nixed that variety of oven configuration. The always conservative construction budget reported to DPD for the buildout is $144,000.

Even if the East John Court space remains cursed and doesn’t work out, Bakery Nouveau appears destined for the neighborhood. 

“We’re really excited about Capitol Hill just because of the diversi
ty up there. And we love the demographics,” Leaman said. Pastry may be his passion. But it’s also his business.

You can view the West Seattle menu and learn more at bakerynouveau.com.

19 thoughts on “Plan for new Bakery Nouveau is ready for the oven on Capitol Hill

  1. Finally! An honest-to-God patisserie in our neighborhood. My wife and I have been bemoaning the lack of a real bakery on the Hill for years now. And for sure Nouveau will surely have enough goods in their cases to remain open all day so people who actually work all day can expect to procure some sweet flaky goodness in the afternoon. Yes, I’m talking to you Crumble and Flake. Cannot wait! I’ll be a regular customer.

  2. This is the first article I read upon waking this morning, and it is thrilling! I stood in line once at Crumble and Flake, and while their goods are, well, good, there’s no way I’m waking up at the crack of dawn to stand in line or risk having all the things I want be sold out. Nouveau is fantastic, and having a location right in my neighborhood will be one more reason to love them.

  3. Oh, sure. We love Sugar (hello CHS advertiser) and there’s a solid roster of bakeries on the Hill including North Hill and Regent plus the baked good goodness of The Wandering Goose, Oddfellows, High 5, Volunteer Park Cafe… land o plenty

  4. I live near 15th Ave and am so excited to hear of this addition. We have a baby so kid-friendly places are needed, not just high end bars. I do love North Hill Bakery but it is so small and lacks generous seating and a comfortable hang out space. Moreover, they do not have substantial breakfast or lunch food so it’s just a cookie or cake place to me.

    Thank you Nouveau for coming, but be sure to do things differently, and better!

  5. Smart business move IMHO. 15th is about to turn the corner and become a major destination finally. This is the side that has all the money I can’t believe it’s taken this long for higher end food establishments to get with the program.

  6. They may have “all the money” but they don’t necessarily go out as much, or spend as much when they do. Unless by “side” you’re encompassing everything from Mercer Island to Juanita

  7. ..a decent bakery coming to Capitol. I wish it was Macrina but I’ll take anyting over the depressing North Captiol Hill bakery and Crumble and Flake which never has food.

  8. Crumble&Flake has gotten alot of attention and good press, but it is just too difficult to patronize, with its awkward location, limited availability of products, and always-early closure because they are sold out. Now they are getting more competition, and unless they adapt and improve they will be a flash-in-the-pan.