Sugar Rush

The sweet success of Hoffman’s Fine Cakes and Pastries
Photos by Denise Sakaki

Photos by Denise Sakaki

Desserts celebrate moments — weddings, birthdays, occasions appropriate for a bakery to commemorate an event. In that way, neighborhood bakeries like Hoffman’s Fine Cakes and Pastries become part of people’s lives.

Open since 1986, Hoffman’s is a European-style bakery serving traditional pastries like croissants, scones, and strudel, as well as custom cakes and specialty desserts. A charming shop, originally nestled in Kirkland, it won over the Eastside. Even as the namesake owner sold the business in 2000 and new owners came in, the love for Hoffman’s didn’t wane. In 2006, Carlos and Eugenia Covelli bought the business, and they kept its legacy going, maintaining Hoffman’s recipes, relying on the expertise of its original bakers, and navigating the business through a rapidly changing Eastside as they moved from Kirkland to Redmond in 2015.

Its new space is nearly double what they previously had. Hoffman’s is celebrating its first full year in Redmond, flourishing in the neighborhood. There’s a window facing the street, allowing people to look in on bakers swinging giant trays of cakes from ovens into cooling racks. Pastry artists can be seen covering the signature Princess Tortes with a blanket of fondant, and piping icing with fluid grace. The curving line of people in the shop is a mix of families with children eager to select a treat, and office workers grabbing a fresh scone to go with their lattes before heading into the office. The walk-in traffic has increased significantly; those who have been loyal to Hoffman’s have followed them, and a new generation of Eastsiders is discovering the distinct pleasure of fresh-baked pastries.

d-IMG_1878Owner and manager Eugenia Covelli reflects on the decade-long adventure she and her husband, Carlos, have had with Hoffman’s. “It’s like another child; it’s our baby,” she said. “We are immigrants — myself, my husband, and my two daughters. We are from Colombia, South America. I studied business, but I’d never had a business for myself. I always worked for a corporation. My background is more logistics. No baking or cooking experience before!”

Like so many self-starters, the Covellis worked hard; Eugenia enrolled in Bellevue Community College to learn English. Carlos was the one to suggest finding a business they could work for themselves, something to leave for their children. “This is why we came to the U.S.A.; we wanted to find a better life for our kids. If you work hard, this country gives you the opportunity to succeed,” Eugenia said. She remembers the instant attraction she had to Hoffman’s; the shop won her heart, and she knew this was the business to pour her energy into.

“This is why we came to the U.S.A.; we wanted to find a better life for our kids. If you work hard, this country gives you the opportunity to succeed.”

Seven days a week, working days and nights, Eugenia and Carlos understood the recipe for success, whether they were talking business with bookkeepers or taking orders behind the counter. They used the best ingredients, accepting no shortcuts, and making sure everything was made from scratch. More importantly, they placed their trust in skilled individuals who had a passion for baking. “This business is all about people,” Eugenia said. “It’s not about just recipes in a book. These are people with skills, talent, and that is the main part of Hoffman’s. I believe so much in the people I work with — they make this business.”

d-IMG_1892The Covellis built a supportive community — a family — within Hoffman’s, and that bond was tested in the fall of 2015, when their retail complex was to undergo renovation. On the eve of the busy holiday season, it was a mad dash to find a new home. They tried to stay in Kirkland, but space was difficult to come by in the short time frame they needed. The Eastside’s rapid growth may have necessitated Hoffman’s move, but it also provided a new opportunity in Redmond, which was eager to welcome them to the neighborhood. The Covellis found a prime location overlooking Cleveland Street and an upcoming water park. They closed for a month to facilitate the move, keeping all their employees on the payroll, and thanks to the City of Redmond working diligently with the Covellis, Hoffman’s opened its doors for business by the end of December 2015.

Call it a sugar rush, but this whirlwind energizes the Covellis. Eugenia is reminded of an important life lesson that is often found in the simple pleasure of what a little sweetness can do for us, if we allow it. “This life is so fast for everyone,” she said. “Running, running, all day” long — somebody asks if they should have their coffee to go, and I say, why not take 10 minutes? Sit and enjoy it! A good coffee and conversation with a friend, that’s what we would like Hoffman’s to provide to people.”

Wisdom well served, and if anyone asks, Eugenia Covelli will tell you without reservation that she absolutely believes in dessert first. Especially if it’s tiramisu.

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