Often times, the highest quality comes from perfecting the simple things.
Such is the case with Hess Bakery & Deli, the Lakewood institution that has built a reputation of offering the freshest and most authentic German baked goods, sandwiches and groceries anywhere in the South Sound.
Customers won’t find fancy contemporary creations or food that explores new ground. In fact, it’s quite the opposition. They will find traditional German staples, everything from soft pretzels to rye sourdough bread to landjaeger dried sausage.
It’s the reason that the business at 6108 Mt. Tacoma Drive Southwest has built a loyal following since it opened in 1963. It first catered to military personnel on what was then known as Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base, but today its reach extends up and down the Puget Sound region.
“We are a scratch bakery. Everything is made by hand,” said Joanie DeGrande, who along with husband John are co-owners for the shop.
“I’ve known generations of people since when they were little kids,” said Dario “Kiki” Cardenas, who started as a baker for Hess nearly four decades ago and today is the other co-owner. “I gave them candy. They’re in their 20’s and 30’s now. I still give them candy.”
Those longtime customers know the story of Hess Bakery & Deli well.
Tony and Hilda Hess, the store’s namesakes, immigrated and settled in the South Sound. Tony Hess was a trained baker, but there wasn’t enough money in war-ravaged Germany. At first, he went door-to-door, selling and delivering bread on Fort Lewis and McChord. Cardenas said following World War II, many members of the military married German women who yearned for bread, meat and other food popular in their native country.
“He found out it could be a great business,” Cardenas said of Tony Hess.
Business picked up so much, in fact, that the couple opened a small store and deli on Bridgeport Way, not far from its current location. As the store’s reputation traveled by word-of-mouth throughout the local German community, Hess Bakery & Deli was regularly packed with customers.
“Those were the hardest-working owners around,” Cardenas said about Tony and Hilda Hess. “There was nothing beneath them.”
From the start, Hess has always been a family run business with longtime employees. For instance, Cardenas became Hess’ first major baker – other than the Hesses themselves – in 1978. He had grown up in Germany and attended baking school there before coming to Lakewood. The store has seen other employees work 20, 30, even 40 years.
In 1980, Tony Hess built the brick building that currently houses the shop. In 2006, around the time Tony Hess passed away, the Hess family sold the store to Cardenas and Joanie and John DeGrande after some 45 years of being family owned.
True to their word, the current owners have kept to the same formula that the Hesses perfected. The baked goods, the imported products, the handmade sandwiches – they’re all of the highest and most authentic quality.
The bakery doesn’t do wholesale because, frankly, it doesn’t need to. The shop’s most popular items are pretzels (which come in traditional, roll and stick form) and rye bread, which today is made with non-processed flour.
The deli features fresh meats and cheeses and is a popular lunch or dinner option. Nearly all of the products on the store’s shelves and in its refrigerators are imported directly from Germany or are products locals might find in a German store. Even the chocolates and gummy bears, Cardenas says, actually taste like the products one would find in the old country.
In essence, a Hess customer could pick up authentic German pretzels or bread, meat, beer, geschnetzeltes, soda, beer, laundry soap and a magazine all in one stop.
Despite its longstanding popularity, Hess built its success without any major advertising, which speaks to the importance of loyalty among the local German population, the owners say. Of course, they welcome all newcomers, whether they’ve traveled to Bavaria or not.
“It is a very unique store,” John DeGrande says. “There are so many people that come in here with questions, and we walk them through. We’re still a family store.”
For its more than 50 years of success and commitment to the community, the City of Lakewood recognizes Hess Bakery & Deli as its November 2016 Business Showcase.
For adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the biggest obstacle to reaching one’s potential often is the lack of a chance.
For nearly 50 years, Lakewood-based Centerforce has been the bridge for those individuals in search of a chance at gainful employment. For various reasons – the stigma of hiring a developmentally disabled individual, the lack of a “connection” who could get them a first job, parents who are hesitant to allow their child into the workforce, etc. - it’s especially hard for individuals with disabilities to get that first job.
That’s one of the reasons the services performed by Centerforce – a nonprofit organization located in the Springbrook neighborhood – is so important, according to Executive Director Debby Graham. She has worked with Centerforce for nearly 20 years.
Centerforce has connected countless individuals with disabilities – all of whom are referred by the State of Washington – with opportunities in food, janitorial, grounds-keeping, technology and other services in Pierce and South King County.
As for the businesses who partner with Centerforce and ultimately benefit from contracting or flat-out hiring its clients and earn a tax break– whether it’s Burger King, Burlington Coat Factory or Old Country Buffet, even Joint Base Lewis-McChord - the rewards can be even greater.
“That's one of our unique characteristics - we develop longtime relationships with businesses and support them,” Graham says. “Some employers just aren't sure, and we can provide that link.”
By The Numbers
Centerforce’s roots stretch to 1968, when a group of concerned parents started what-was-then called the Pacific Care Center to emphasize teaching daily living skills to intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals.
In 1981, Centerforce evolved to focus on vocational rehabilitation by providing employment education, training and skill building. Its prior location was a warehouse near the I-5/SR 512 intersection before it moved to its current location at 5204 Solberg Drive Southwest nearly two decades ago.
One look at the nonprofit’s numbers today illustrates how much it has grown since its humble roots, as well as the reach it now enjoys in the community. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the organization:
Served 821 individuals. That consisted of 262 individuals with disabilities and 616 Springbrook community residents
Received almost all of its revenue from government funding, grants, contributions and commercial services such as janitorial, grounds-keeping and Hometown Dogs, its mobile hot dog truck
Was able to provide nearly $83,000 worth of uncompensated services to clients thanks to community contributions.
In September 2016, its clients received nearly $25,000 worth of wages – wages that most likely wouldn’t have been made without their work.
What the numbers might not necessarily illustrate is how maintaining gainful employment can change clients for the better, whether they live with cerebral palsy, a brain injury or any other obstacle.
Development Director Rick Guild says there are countless stories of how clients’ lives have changed thanks to Centerforce. There’s Jason, who before his job was scared to ride the bus for fear of being bullied and wouldn’t talk to anyone. Today, Jason is an “All-Star” at his technology job and is a regular transit rider.
“Being around folks with limitations really opens people's eyes to their abilities,” Guild says. “They are capable of so much and they care. They have a deep emotional connection to others.”
The need to connect adults with disabilities with gainful employment doesn’t look like it will fade anytime soon.
Currently, there is a waiting list for adults with disabilities to work with Centerforce.
The truth is that, according to Graham, when people are deciding which organization they should contribute money to, those that assist adults with disabilities don’t jump to the top of the priority list.
“That’s what keeps me going,” she says. “Our population is often the quiet population. We work on their behalf.”
In terms of its future, Centerforce is planning how it can better serve its clients and the community.
The organization says the City of Lakewood has been a tremendous partner and supporter of Centerforce. It loves the improvements the City has made to sidewalks, roads and infrastructure in Springbrook – a neighborhood to which it is intrinsically connected.
For its success, service and contributions to the community, the City of Lakewood recognizes Centerforce as its October 2016 Business Showcase.
Few things are guaranteed for small, independent business owners.
But in the case of Lakewood’s Diamond Designs Unlimited – where each piece of jewelry is unique and crafted to the finest quality - owner Shawn Luvaas keeps a promise for new and longtime customers.
It’s a promise that has helped Diamond Designs build and maintain a loyal following for nearly 25 years.
“I guarantee you’ll see something you’ve never seen before,” he said recently during a break from a steady trickle of walk-ins.
If all of the shoes that have been given new life at Ardesson’s Shoe Repair & New Shoes could talk, they would have nearly 70 years worth of stories to tell.
Of course, shoes can’t talk. Luckily, Alex Bennett can. He can do it well, in fact. He can speak about the intricacies of the shoe repair industry – how most shoes these days are molded directly together, rather than the old days of welts. That’s where the leather rim is sewn around the edge of a shoe top, attaching to the sole.
Bennett - who began working at Ardesson’s in 1970 – has seen the store change, along with the community around it. A lot of the shoes that the store originally sold were more orthopedic in nature, but over the years they began to also emphasize a sense of style.
He can recall generations of families walking through the doors at 9635 Gravelly Lake Dr. SW, in need of a shoe fix. Often, a nice pair of shoes they had purchased was starting to hurt, and that’s where Ardesson’s earned its dollar.
Lakewood might not have realized it, but Alicia Barrett knew that the community needed Tuladhara Yoga.
According to Barrett and the millions of other people worldwide who practice it, yoga is fun and offers mental, physical and emotional benefits. Increased energy, cardiovascular and strength-building, improved focus and concentration – the list goes on and on.
But for newcomers, yoga can be intimidating, especially given some widely held stereotypes and misconceptions of the ancient Indian practice.
That’s why Barrett, a Lakewood native, chose this particular community when she opened her studio – located at 7304 Lakewood Dr. W, Set 12, next to H&L Produce and Casa Mia. She envisioned a place where anyone could practice yoga and feel comfortable and welcomed.
“A community like Lakewood that’s diverse and has people of all backgrounds may not be using yoga to its fullest,” Barrett says. “We want to be a studio that’s inclusive. People have these perceptions or stereotypes about yoga, and we’re really trying to dispel all that.”
The sweet, buttery, melt-in-your mouth creations of Bite Me! Inc. can be found in grocery stores and shops nationwide.
But the passion that goes into every cookie – from Flower Power shortbread to Butter Grahams to football-shaped Seahawk cookies - can be found nearly every day here in Lakewood. That’s where owner Deborah Tuggle and her staff of nearly 20 people produce the treats that many of us buy at Metropolitan Market, Whole Foods and other popular stores.
Bite Me! specializes in sweet and simple. Currently, crews work with three different cookie companies that she owns. However, each cookie is then specialized for the customer. According to Tuggle, that simple approach is the foundation of her company’s quality.
“We don’t skimp on anything,” she said recently while chatting with the City of Lakewood in her office at 3827 100th St., Bite Me’s headquarters since 2015. “We use only the best domestic nuts. We use only the best butter. We use only made- from- scratch cookie dough.”
“I won’t compromise the product.”
Tijuana Taco is as much Lakewood as lakes, oak trees and the military.
Sure, to someone new to the area, the connection might not make sense. The South Sound is located some 1,200 miles from Tijuana, Mexico, after all.
But talk to any longtime Lakewood resident, and he or she likely can recount fond memories of the family owned-and-operated restaurant that opened its doors in 1969.
The Tijuana Taco brand originally began in Scottsdale, Ariz., and thanks to a Northwest businessperson with franchise visions in mind, there were plans to open multiple locations in the South Sound and Portland, Ore., area.
The Lakewood restaurant – located at 10005 Bristol Ave. SW – opened and was an immediate hit with locals, who could order and munch on anything from tacos to bean tostadas to burritos.
The City Manager's Weekly Info Bulletin is a roundup of news items, happenings and other items of note for the City of Lakewood.
Lakewood's recognizes strong and longstanding local businesses with its Business Showcase.