The cottage food industry in Washington state grows entrepreneurs of all sorts. Some are content to stay small and are satisfied to remain in their home kitchens; others see this as a stepping stone to a full launch at a commercial/ retail location.
Here’s the skinny:
Home/cottage industry locations have a business license with the State of Washington and their city of location, plus hold a cottage permit through the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
Cottage businesses have grown nationally over the past 15 years, and about 32 states now have cottage food laws. The State of Washington lists about 1,100 approved cottage business. Wait times to get a permit have changed significantly since the pandemic started. The number of applicants has increased exponentially and the Washington State Department of Agriculture now has extended turnaround times, something the department has never seen before.
Our local pop-up purveyor of pastries and breads: — the Edmonds-based Cottage, Community Bakery owned by Conor O’Neill, began giving bread away at the end of his driveway in May of 2019 — and officially became a “cottage industry” business.
Conor is taking his love of baking to the next level.
The Cottage, Community Bakery will soon open the doors of a storefront at 7530 Olympic View Drive #101 in the Perrinville neighborhood (on the Edmonds/Lynnwood border) this fall and transition to a fully fledged retailer.
What is the difference between a “commercial kitchen” and a “cottage industry” food purveyor?
Different preparation and no commercial or special equipment allowed, for one thing.
In an earlier story, Brier-based Moon Rabbit Pastry owner Zoe Sonoda shared with Restaurant News: “We are not allowed to use any professional equipment, such as fancy mixers or ovens. All cooking must take place in the permit holder’s kitchen. So we are not necessarily referred to as ‘professional or commercial.’ Once that language is used, people expect and the state requires a completely different license and permitting arrangement.”
This type of permit differs from a commercial food establishment since it allows non-hazardous food processing to occur in a personal kitchen. Products for sale shouldn’t require refrigeration. No custards, no fresh whipped cream, no cut fruit, to name a few.
Permit holders have a lengthy application process, in-home inspection (even though not regularly inspected from a commercial point of view), and have a food-handlers license. They are required to list every type of equipment, dish, scale, toothpick, etc. that will contact products.
Applicants have to describe their floor plan, label and list out the cottage items that are stored on a separate shelf. They must provide their sanitizing and cleaning practices, kid and pet plans while processing, and the tedious step by step description on how they will package products.
Next — the process of creating the labels, based on the recipes for each product sold.
Very strict guidelines exist for products that are permitted and prohibited. A cottage food permit allows a maximum of 50 master recipes and endless variations from those recipes.
So depending on what a person makes, it could be just a few labels (recipes) or a lot!
“I have over 200 “labels,” which consist of my 50 plus every other ingredient/product combination I want to create,” Sonada noted. She further shared that she has “no desire” to go into a retail location. She is happy as a “cottage business.”
Another cottage industry business that’s happy to stay a cottage business is called Angry Fish.
Earl Bricker is the co-owner of this Edmonds-based business with his partner Cynthia Hinson. Bricker is old school — he preferred a phone call — so I dialed and we chatted.
Bricker is the creator of these amazingAngry Fish jams, which are handcrafted in small batches. This makes them a true labor of love. The berries, fruits and sometimes chili peppers are of the finest quality and when possible, locally sourced. Another key to the great flavors, Bricker said, is that Angry Fish uses a shorter cooking time. This brings a burst of not only flavor but a beautiful, bright-colored jam.
For the “hot” versions, Bricker explained he utilizes two different types of peppers — habanero and scorpion. He shared that the secret to making them spicy without setting your mouth on fire is dried or dehydrated pulverized peppers. You taste the spice without searing your tonsils.
Cynthia Hinson is the brains of the operation.” She does all the “not so fun stuff,” like pay the bills; track the purchases, expenses, etc., Bricker said.
Fond memories of Christmases past arose as we visited — I first met this jam purveyor at Sound Styles, where he moonlights as Santa Earl during the holidays. I went home with a jar of raspberry habanero, and can attest that it is wonderful as an instant appetizer, spooned over cream cheese, and a great glaze for many meats and veggies.
Bricker clearly enjoys making jam as a cottage industry purveyor. He can roll out of bed and head to the kitchen when he feels the creative urge strike. There’s no pressure. He can make as little or as much as he likes, because, as he puts it, “My day job pays the bills.”
Bricker has worked for the U.S. Post Office for over 20years.
He began Angry Fish in 2014, Asked how the business got its name, his answer made me laugh, adding if he “had a dollar for every time I was asked that question,” he wouldn’t need to sell any jam!
Earl explained that what’s in the jar is the most important part. “That’s what folks are paying for, not fancy packaging.”
When it came to designing a label and other details outside of the actual jam, he wanted to keep it as simple as possible. Sitting in his kitchen, he glanced across the room and saw a decorative tile a fish, but it was a happy-looking fish.That didn’t resonate, so he started looking at images of fish, and found one that suited: a cranky-looking fish, caught on a hook… “Angry Fish!”
Angry Fish has many flavors to choose from. One bite and you will be hooked like the fish on the jar. Products are available at various locations, see Facebook and his website to learn more. Or just give Earl a call.
I would encourage readers, as you are the consumers of these goods, to learn about Washington State’s cottage food laws.
Links below list out a few websites, and many cottage industry sites have FAQs as well, and provide 100 % transparency on products they sell. It’s important to understand this branch of food service.
Here are links for more information:
Here are a few more cottage food businesses in our area that I didn’t get to personally interview but certainly are worth your time to check out for yourselves:
Annemarie’s Cakes featuring “Amazing Macarons!” Lynnwood area, 425-301-7887
Amara’s Bakeshop: Her baking philosophy: “If you’re going to waste the calories on baked goods, they might as well be good.” Located in Lake Forest Park, 425-633-9607
Bottom line: Yet another way to support local businesses. Speaking of which, there’s a Moon Rabbit Pastry event this coming Saturday, Sept. 18 from 11 .m.-1 p.m. — a “Pastry Pop-Up” hosted by our friends at Ono Poke, 10016 Edmonds Way, Edmonds.
— By Kathy Passage
A specialty gourmet food broker for over 30 years, Kathy Passage has in-depth knowledge on food and the special qualities of ingredients used in the exquisite products she helped bring to market. Kathy brings this unique perspective from the “other side of the plate” to writing about the food and restaurant scene in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.