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George's Legacy: Celebrate the 50th anniversary of George’s Bakery at the Block Party
George Macris loved his city. There is no doubt that if George were alive today, he’d be all over the North Bend Block Party, selling cookies and bread, or mingling with the crowd. Probably both.
Macris, the namesake of George’s Bakery, founded his business 50 years ago this month. He took over the baker’s role at a spot that had been a bakery for 42 years prior. But Macris really made this place his own.
In the summer of 1964, George and his wife, Jean, opened Butter Crust Bakery. Jean remembers that her husband was a hard-working Greek immigrant a few years older than her, who washed dishes, worked in a bakery and learned the trade.
“When we were first married, we found this for sale,” she said. “It was a run-down bakery,” dating back to the 1920s.
For George, still learning the business, running his own place was a new challenge. Over 28 years, they made it work, putting a lot of pride, sweat and hard work into it, and building a strong community bond.
According to the Valley Record archives, Jean worked alongside George, and their children had their first work experiences behind the counter. George sat on the North Bend Chamber of Commerce and helped plan the North Bend celebration that was once known as Alpine Days, and is now the Festival at Mount Si.
At first, Jean kept her teaching job in Seattle, but found it hard to commute. She worked in the bakery before starting her own business next door. In 1980, the Macrises cut a hole in the wall of their bakery and opened a nutritional supplement store next door, Nature’s Marketplace.
“I’m a small retailer now,” says Jean, who has more competition these days. “But you have loyal customers who want you to listen to them, not just ring up something.”
Through hard times
In 1969, the bakery experienced a tragedy. The Macrises and several of their employees were in a car, driving on I-90, when they were involved in a head-on collision.
To keep their business open, local friends and volunteers stepped up to run the shop during the weeks that the Macrises were in hospital.
“When owners George and Jean and most of their co-workers were hurt in an auto accident last Monday, a number of Valley residents might have expected to see black crepe and closed doors at the Butter Crust Bakery,” reported the Valley Record. “Instead, they saw a bustling shop with bread and pastries flowing out of the ovens.”
“People came out to help when you’re down and out,” said Jean. That’s a testament both to George’s place in the community, and the kind of place North Bend was. You might not see that in a big city, remarked Jean.
“George is one of the old breed of businessmen,” wrote Valley Record editor Paul Wiedeman, when Macris celebrated his bakery’s 25th year in 1989. “He has a ready sense of humor and an always friendly word for his customers, but when it comes down to business, it’s no nonsense. He also takes discussions about the local business climate seriously. The family business has had its share of hard knocks, most of them coming from changes in that climate.”
The 1980s were a hard time for North Bend’s downtown. Businesses no longer fronted the main interstate highway, which had moved south, and so they had to adjust. And they did. George’s raised doughnuts were sold all over town.
Spirituality was always important for the Macris family. Devout Greek Orthodox, their faith got them through the hard times.
George also kept up his local involvement. During his life, he was president of the North Bend Chamber and was instrumental in starting the Alpine Days parade.
In 1991, the bakery’s aging gas oven sprung a leak, then blew up, badly injuring Macris and shutting the place down for months. Macris recovered and went back to work, but his health was never the same. He died in 2003, at the age of 69.
For Jean, the bakery next door has a lot of good memories.
“He was a wonderful baker, people always tell me.”
His legacy, of a lively downtown, and the aroma of doughnuts and fresh bread, still lives on.
“The people have been wonderful, helpful and loyal,” says Jean.
The cinnamon apple loaf. The raised doughnuts. The rumble. Current owner Joe McKeown has inherited a lot of the recipes. But the main thing he got was George’s good name.
McKeown considered changing the name to Mount Si Bakery. But like the family before him, there wasn’t much point.
“The community thought so much of him,” he said. And everybody called it George’s anyway.
“The community still talks about how wonderful George was,” said Joe’s partner, Kathy Stokesberry.
“We never hear anything negative,” said McKeown. “Always positive.”
“A significant number of our customers come for George,” said Stokesberry. “As children, their parents would drive to Eastern Washington; they remember coming here.” Now, as adults, they repeat that experience. “And they’re bringing their kids here.”
George’s current owners are impressed with the North Bend Block Party, now in its fifth year, as is Jean.
“This is an opportunity for people to see the businesses here,” Jean said.
“It brings the community into the downtown,” says Stokesberry. “Many families haven’t seen our downtown before.”
“The whole Valley was ready for it,” said McKeown. “It just took off.”
This is the best event North Bend does, he says.
“Alpine Days was down here when George first started it,” McKeown said. ‘So the Block Party is back to what they were doing.”
So, when the fun starts Saturday, remember George. He’d be right at home.
• George’s Bakery is located at 127 W. North Bend Way, downtown North Bend.
George Macris at work in the North Bend bakery that was named for him.
This 1940s photo shows that many neighbor’s of George’s Bakery—called Bellinger’s Bakery then—are long gone including Fountain Drug, Thompson’s Cafe and the Sunset Garage.