Kersti's View: Making 'scents' of Bernie's retirement
By Kersti Elisabeth Muul
Editors Note: Kersti Muul worked at the Original Bakery which is set to close Feb. 23. The owner Bernie Alonzo is retiring.
In first grade, I met a girl who smelled like donuts. She had thick, bouncy ponytails and the biggest brown eyes my seven year old eyes had ever seen. She was kind. And quiet like me, and we quickly became friends. We were also in Brownies together. I learned that her family owned a bakery, and that's why she smelled so good all the time.
My father, a connoisseur of all things fattening and delicious, began frequenting this bakery, bringing home cake donuts and cheese danish, which he would reheat in the oven, and put butter on. The excitement of seeing my father come through the screen door with that greasy brown box on a weekend morning, was unbearable. It also smelled like my friend; the ultimate comfort.
When I was a troubled teenager, my father brought me down to the bakery and asked Bernie to give me a job. He granted my Dad's wish, and over time Bernie became like a second father to me. Bernie taught me a lot about baked goods, but moreso, life. He was generous and the hardest working person I had ever met. Work never really felt like work. It was rich with conversations, laughing, learning and love. I heard Led Zeppelin for the first time in that bakery. I had my first espresso in that bakery. I watched my nephews grow up in that bakery. They thought I lived there and were allowed to come behind the counter to get their own sprinkled donuts. They called me 'Tia Donut'... actually they still do.
Weekends were chaos, lines out the door. Early mornings spent glazing, rising, filling, slicing, stuffing, flipping, frying, baking, pouring, steaming... Bernie loved the Beatles; they were always on in the background and I knew the White Album and Sgt. Pepper by heart. He always made us Migas for breakfast between baking bread and flipping donuts.
Weekdays were often a lot slower and I had time to really get to know the customers; eavesdropping on the gossip going on upstairs, or watching sweaty folks come in from the YMCA ruining their workout with a maple bar. I forged lifelong friendships with many of these people.
My good smelling friend and I took different paths in life but stayed in touch. One day we hiked up Rainier together. She had become a seasoned climber and she shared her knowledge with me. To this day it is one of the most transformative experiences I've ever had. Just like her Dad, she taught me about life, disguised in an adventurous climb.
For every calorie consumed in West Seattle, I'm sure there is a similar story to mine. The Alonzo's bakery will never be replaced. They have been a part of so many people's lives in ways they are probably unaware of. For me, the Alonzos were an essential ingredient in who I became as a person. When I close my eyes, the sweet smell of the bakery is as strong as it was when I met my friend.