People walking through downtown Ellensburg might smell something good baking as they near Third Avenue, and if they follow their noses, they will end up with a delicious reward.

Hayday Bake & Brew recently opened on Third between Main and Water Streets. Owners Waquar and Fatima Sheikh met at a bakery while in college at 1980 and said they had always wanted to open one of their own.

“All along, people had asked me what I would want to do when I retired, if I could do anything,” Waquar said. “This is really relaxing to me. It’s meeting people and talking to people, just hanging out. A place where you can come and de-stress a little bit.”

The couple recently moved to the area from the West Side, setting down roots in April after owning property in the valley for almost 10 years. Their son attended Central Washington University, and at that time they decided to travel back and forth from the West Side to visit him.

“We liked the place,” Waquar said. “After he graduated, we still came back a couple of times. We found this space off Vantage Highway and it was beautiful. You can see the mountains from there, and you’re kind of high. Very windy.”

Fatima left her previous job as a teacher in 2003, enrolling in Renton Technical College’s bakery program. After graduating, she worked in a bakery in North Bend on and off over the last 15 years. Waquar previously worked in international finance, and now teaches finance at CWU. Fatima runs the culinary side of the business, while Waquar handles the front-end management.

The couple bought the building which now houses Hayday in August. The building, which dates to 1889 has housed many different businesses over the years including a coffee roastery and a woodworking shop. The renovation of the building took approximately five months, which Waquar said was relatively short by reconstruction standards. The couple had to reconfigure the layout of the building, erecting a new staircase to the upstairs and rebuilding the kitchen to their needs.

“It was an enormous amount of work,” he said. “It’s basically totally redone.”

STRONG RESPONSE

The business celebrated its grand opening on Jan. 24, and the couple said the turnout was excellent.

“It was a really busy weekend,” Fatima said.

Leading up to the opening and as they have gotten established over the last two weeks, Waquar said the turnout from locals has mainly been as a result of word of mouth.

“We didn’t advertise other than social media,” he said.

As word of the business has gotten out, Waquar said they have had people tell them that the city needed this kind of business. He attributes this to their want to fill a specific niche in Ellensburg’s food and beverage scene. It is the couple’s intent to create an area that is a blend of coffeehouse, bakery and social area where one can have an alcoholic beverage.

“It’s not dinner, it’s not lunch,” he said. “It’s kind of in-between and you can do it at any time.”

On the bakery side, Fatima is specializing in cookies, pies, tarts and various pastries. She said they will be bringing on cakes as well. She also bakes loaves of bread for customers to take home with them. The crowd favorites so far have been the thumbprint cookies and Russian tea cakes, but she said she certainly has her own favorites to make in the kitchen.

“I really like making breads,” she said. “I like to have my hands in the dough, but I also really like pies. I make a damn fine pie.”

As they have gotten their business off the ground, Waquar said one of the challenges they have faced is making sure they are properly staffed. Although Fatima runs the baking operation, they still needed employees who were skilled and educated in that craft.

“I think we got lucky in a small town with the bakers,” he said. “That was our big concern. There’s not too many bakeries here and professional bakers. We were concerned about how we were going to find those, but we did.”

The couple have plans in the next year to enrich the business by creating an outdoor patio behind the building, which is bordered by Wilson Creek. They hope to have live music on the patio once it’s up and running, and also host theme nights like pints and pies and a formal tea service. Waquar also is also applying for permits to sell specialty bottles of beer for customers to take home with them.

Fatima said her favorite part of the business is receiving responses from customers who try her products.

“A lady came in the other day and got a piece of baklava,” she said. “She’s from Palestine, and she said it was the best she’d had, even better than hers.”

For Waquar, the joy in owning a small business is also his interaction with the customers, as well as the praise lavished on his wife’s craft.

“That’s the kind of stuff you hear, and it makes it worthwhile,” he said.

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