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Cafe to become Love + Flour as Essential Bakery exits Madison Valley

(Image: CHS)

The dreaded paper sign in the window has gone up at the Essential Bakery Cafe in Madison Valley but in this case, the message is not about a closure on E Madison.

Or, at least, it won’t be a long one.

The Seattle baking company has sold its cafe to a new owner who is ready to keep the comfortable hangout full of soups and sandwiches, baked treats, and fresh Essential bread.

“We’re just looking to keep our little family here,” Jenny Finau told CHS Wednesday afternoon.

Finau’s new business will be called Love + Flour. It is the first establishment she has run on her own after a career launching food and drink projects across the state.

Tom Campanile of Essential tells CHS the decision to sell the cafe was a product of strategic planning for the organic baking company and “making sure we are in control of our destiny.”

“Sometimes you just have to make a plan,” Campanile said.

Essential’s other two cafes in Wallingford and Georgetown remain open, Campanile said.

The changeover in Madison Valley comes as a few other area coffee hangouts are undergoing some changes of their own. On Capitol Hill, you can buy the old market house and the Volunteer Park Cafe business for $1.7 million. Meanwhile, the neighborhood’s large Solstice Cafe and coffee hangout has made way for the expansion of the Urban Animal veterinary clinic.

Finau said her main objective with Love + Flour is to keep most of the things people love about the cafe the same. Essential’s breads will still be featured as well as a few select neighborhood favorite pastries.

More importantly, Finau said the cafe’s staff is staying on so Love + Flour will be filled with familiar faces.

But there will be a transition and a few changes. You might see the cafe dark for a few days during the changeover. Any big changes will take time.

“Some changes are coming,” she said. “It’ll be a slow evolve over the next couple months as we kind of test the market to see what they are enjoying — and what they are not.”

For Finau, the opportunity to run her own cafe has been a decade in the making. She said she found out the cafe was on the market and jumped in. She’s now a new Seattleite — and running her own neighborhood cafe.

“Everything will be scratch made  — and made with a whole lot of love,” she said.

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9 thoughts on “Cafe to become Love + Flour as Essential Bakery exits Madison Valley” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Great to see a new owner stepping in. We live around the corner and the experience at this Essential Bakery cafe has been beyond terrible for the past five months. I’m willing to give them a try again for my Saturday morning coffee runs knowing someone new is steering the ship. Welcome!

    • Isn’t that the truth. It seems like they just gave up lately – service went from its recent slow and indifferent to borderline hostile. I live nearby and am glad a new owner is coming in and keeping it as a cafe. It’s a great space for that, and can (and should be) a great neighborhood amenity like it used to be.

  2. Here’s my take: Essential is exiting since the cafe is no longer profitable and they are cutting their losses.

    The new owner likely does not have the access to capital necessary to keep the store afloat.

    I give it 6-12 months before, ugh, we have an empty storefront and no bakery in Madison Valley.

    • It’s probably right it was unprofitable or a distraction for a larger company like Essential. And they had to pay Seattle wages for all the labor to run it.

      An owner operator might survive, because they are allowed to – and often do – effectively work for less than Seattle minimum wage.

  3. If the cafe is no longer owned by Essential, why not serve better bread? Or are they becoming official Essential resellers as part of some special deal?

  4. Welcome Jenny! As someone who lives a few blocks away, I’m really happy to hear this. I sure hope the space gets a refresh. I always found the food cases rather dingy and depressing. And the dining area has so much potential, yet isn’t especially cozy either.

  5. The new Love + Flour Bakery is disappointing. The pastry selections are now much more limited, like no cakes evident when I was there recently. I bought a loaf of bread (Essential Bakery Fremont Sourdough) and was charged $5.99 + $0.62 tax for $6.61, and found out today I could have bought the same loaf at Red Apple market down the street for $3.99, $2.62 less!