The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Brittany Allen
Reporter 

Fellowship wrapped in phyllo dough

 

Brittany Allen

GOODIES PATROL: A youngster mills around the pastries on display at St. John's Bakery.

About 10 miles north of town, amid the trees and traffic, is St. John's Bakery. It is an oddly peaceful spot for existing so close to the busy Highway 97.

"People just get a relief in their soul and they say, 'Thank you for being here,'" says Sister Iosiphia of her experience working in the store. "Everyone with their problems and whatever is going on, just walking here they say they feel peaceful, and they walk out of here with some peace in their souls. They're not just happy for the food, but for that wholesome atmosphere."

But the customers are not the only ones grateful for what the bakery provides. Proceeds from the sales at St. John's Bakery go to the upkeep of St. John the Forerunner's Greek Monastery. The Monastery itself was founded in 1995 and the bakery was added in 2002 after the sisters found that the donations they received weren't enough to keep the bills paid.

It has become customary for Greek monasteries to operate a small gift shop and/or bookstore in order to fund their livelihood. But St. John's is somewhat unique in what it offers. Among the typical religious tokens and traditional treats, they also host a full deli and provide made to order Greek delicacies both sweet and savory.

"The center of the Church's life is formed around a table-the last supper-so food has a pretty unique spot in the life of people," Father Michael says as customers can be heard conversing with the sisters and ordering a late lunch. "And it's nice socially that people gather around it."

And, who could forget, they also serve coffee that Father Michael roasts himself. A large outdoor neon sign reads "Espresso" like a beacon of hope to weary travelers and Washington-grown caffeine addicts alike.

But the bakery is not a very well-kept local secret; people from all around have come to know and appreciate the business. As I entered the parking lot last week to visit with the sisters, it was readily apparent the widespread influence the bakery has just by looking at license plates; one read "South Dakota," then down the line were a "British Columbia" and "Oregon."

The bakery has not always been this popular, but, according to Sister Philothei, it did not take long before their humble little bakery was graced with good business.

"We started small, with a simple menu," Sister Philothei said. "In the beginning it was slow-it was very slow, like in 2002-but now we see that people have gotten to know that they can get quality Greek food right here on the side of the highway."

After the Monastery Complex Fire of 2011, the bakery was closed, but only for a week. Luckily, for the Monastery, only a few trees were harmed by the fire in their neck of the woods. For them, if anything, the fire sparked a growth in their business.

"Surprisingly it seemed like more people knew about us afterwards," Sister Philothei said. "People who have been coming in after that for years-not just months-have been saying, 'We aw you on TV' or 'We heard about your fire.'"

Another uniquity of the bakery, is the level of presence of the sisters. According to Father Michael, it is a "treat" that the public should be able to converse and visit so freely with them. So, whether you are just in the mood for a bite of pastry, or even would like to ask some questions about the Greek Orthodox faith, the sisters would be happy to have you stop by. The bakery is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, you can also visit their website at https://stjohnmonastery.org.

 

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