With a large windmill on top of the building and advertising “17 Kinds of Coffee Cakes” Queen Anne Hill welcomed Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakery chain in 1929. The Los Angeles-based company was founded in California by Lawrence Frank and Theodore Van de Kamp in 1915 as a potato chip store, then eventually branched out into bakeries, operating in California and Washington.
The Van de Kamp’s bakeries on Queen Anne were located at 538 Queen Anne Avenue N (currently Pagliacci Pizza), and at 2127 Queen Anne Avenue N (currently All the Best pet care store). At the time they were part of the largest bakery chain in the Pacific Northwest.
Their first grand opening on Queen Anne Hill was at 538 Queen Anne Avenue on August 7, 1929. The rotating Delft blue windmills on the top of the bakery added to the fun of shopping there, as did the Dutch costume uniforms and traditional Dutch peaked white hats worn by the counter staff. Theodore Van de Kamp chose the Dutch theme as a symbol of cleanliness and of European quality.
The tall windmill was easily seen by passing cars (the automobile was quickly becoming a factor in the grocery and bakery business). An easily recognized symbol, it was designed by Harry Oliver, a Hollywood movie studio artist who was the set designer for the movie Ben-Hur in 1925, and many others.
Inside, the bakeries were also decorated in Dutch style, using bright Delft blue and white colors with red tiles on the floor. With Van De Kamp’s, marketing was important.
The Queen Anne bakeries were known for fresh breads, doughnuts, fancy cakes, pastries, pies and cookies. Cakes came in chocolate, caramel, prune, angel food and more, and doughnuts were offered both plain and sugared at 19 cents a dozen in 1931.
Using local butter, eggs and quality ingredients, the baking plant at 811 Yale Ave N., which is currently the Yale Building at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research complex, made everything in small quantities. Similar to the size of the small batches made by home bakers, this was said to ensure fine texture and consistent results. The modern electric ovens, a popular feature at this time, were “scientifically adjusted” and all the ingredients were “subjected to rigid laboratory tests” according to a 1929 Seattle Times article in that day’s “Van de Kamp’s Section.”
For the home baker and non-baker alike, the bakeries were pleasant additions to the Hill’s shopping experience, as they also offered pies, such as apple, apricot, holiday pumpkin and brandied mincemeat, as well as prepared stuffing/dressing and boxes of chocolates. Their Tray O’Mints, sold as a box of six mints for 9 cents in 1940.
To ensure freshness, two to three deliveries made daily from the baking plant to the retail bakeries. At the end of each day the retail bakeries cleared their shelves, sending all the leftover pastries to a day-old store. Following that, the unsold two-day-old pastries were donated to local charities.
Van de Kamp’s eventually transformed the business into packaged baked goods sold in grocery stores. It ceased operations in 1985, leaving 125 Seattle employees owed two weeks of back wages, according to a June 1, 1985 Seattle Times article. Van de Kamp’s frozen fish products are still sold, an offshoot of the business.
ALICIA ARTER is a member of the Queen Anne Historical Society Board of Directors. For more information, to view source material for this article, or to read past articles in this series, go to qahistory.org.