By Dominique Etzel, University of Washington News Lab – Special to CHS
The doors are swung open in the morning and excited eyes ogle the cookies fresh out of the oven at Capitol Hill cookie bakery Hello Robin.
Habanero orange is a daring, fan-favorite flavor. The sweet smell of sugar cookies is wafted through the Tiffany-blue room and bakery owner Robin Wehl Martin smiles.
“It smells like my grandma,” she says.
The bakery is homey. The kitchen looks much like her own, she says, with a large communal table where customers can sit and talk with bellies full of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Next to the cookies sits a freezer full of Molly Moon’s homemade ice cream flavors. The two sweet treats combine to create a delectable ice cream cookie sandwich.
Good guidance from the beginning — leave room for a line, and find the perfect location — was part of the secret to Wehl Martin’s recipe. Along with a touch of luck and a lot of research. Now Wehl Martin has seen the success of owning a small business for a year and a half while creating a space for the neighborhood to gather.
“When people sit down here I have to harass them,” Wehl Martin said with a smile. She knows all the drama about the three high school girls chatting away in the corner and she often catches up with the regulars of the 19th Ave E shop.
Before opening her bakery over a year ago, Wehl Martin was used to putting her three children before everything. One of her biggest fears with opening the bakery was whether or not she would still have time to be a mom. On top of that, the competition intimidated her with shops like Trophy Cupcakes and Molly Moon’s gaining popularity in the area.
Hello Robin seems to be doing just fine — especially with a certain exclusive demographic.
Wehl Martin laughed about the time she flagged Macklemore down on the street while trick-or-treating to find out if he was a fan of her “Mackles’more” cookies. (He was). She also shared the secret to the Seahawks playoff success noting that the night before the big game, Russell Wilson came in for not one, but two ice cream cookie sandwiches.
In the long run, Wehl Martin doesn’t see herself owning more than one shop. Focusing on one Hello Robin allows her to get to know her customers. It’s also plenty of work to keep the cookie shelves filled at even one shop.
“I can definitely see the challenges now,” Wehl Martin said. “I feel so good and so proud to be a small business owner.”
Hello Robin is located at 522 19th Ave E. You can learn more at hellorobincookies.com.