Ethos’ evolution includes return to Queensgate area later this year

Ethos Bakery & Café wants the community to know it has not closed, even though its shop on Richland’s Keene Road is empty.

Ethos temporarily consolidated operations into its Richland Parkway location while awaiting completion of a new building intended to house all baking and milling operations under one roof.

Ethos must contract before it can expand, said Angela Kora, co-owner.

“We’re working on new and exciting things,” said Kora who is also Ethos’ bakery manager. “Come see us in the meantime so that we can make sure all those new and exciting things can happen.”

The new building at 2290 Keene Road is planned near the same Queensgate Drive and Keene Road intersection where Ethos has operated for the last six years, moving into a spot vacated by Sharehouse Coffee.

The project is being built by developer Greg Markel of Washington Securities and Investment Corp., the same entity behind the neighboring TacoTime and mixed-use building, currently home to Origami Salon and The Kozy Kup.

Markel said Hummel Construction will build the 4,000-square-foot building, and an early February groundbreaking is planned, weather permitting.

If all goes as planned, construction will take 120 days.

Markel said he has one more lot to develop in the area to the west of the Kozy Kup. It was originally set to be home to the Dugout Bar & Grill. Though that plan fell through, Markel said he still plans to put a neighborhood pub there.

Kora hopes to be in the new building by the summer, as the move from the Keene Road shop resulted in layoffs of part-time staff and the need to spread operations across two facilities – the location on the eastside of The Parkway near the courtyard, and a second location, also in The Parkway, that it uses strictly for storage, baking and milling.

When Ethos moved into the central Richland location at 702 The Parkway in 2020, sharing a building with Moniker and Wine Social, it was only intended to be a small storefront, filling a need for a coffee shop in the retail strip and customers visiting the Richland Farmers Market, held weekly from spring to fall.

Kora and co-owner Scot Newell started Ethos in 2011, and opened its first shop, Ethos Trattoria, in north Richland.

Since then, Ethos has expanded its offerings, growing a portfolio to include cold-pressed juices, ice cream and whole grain flour.

Ethos has more than a dozen wholesale accounts for its bread or baked goods, including popular ham and cheese croissants, scones and macrons, which can be found at places like Barracuda Coffee Co. in Richland and Indaba Coffee in Kennewick.

You’ll also find the company’s bread at Richland’s Fiction @ J. Bookwalter and Barnard Griffin Winery and West Richland’s The Endive Eatery.

It features pop-up sales at some events, but no longer has a booth at local farmers markets due to its year-round presence in The Parkway.

Ethos also sells its stone-milled flours to smaller, cottage bakeries along with local Yoke’s Fresh Markets and through direct mail orders.

The company partners with local growers for the variety of grains used in its whole grain flour, along with other natural ingredients, like fruit.

“It’s opened up a whole new world of opportunity for different collaborators, and that’s been really fun,” Kora said. “I think that it gives us an opportunity to look at a regional focus versus just a Tri-Cities focus.”

On its website, Ethos explains how “freshly-ground flour preserves the unique flavors and aromas of each grain and helps us make more complex and delicious baked goods.” It also says the stone-milling process preserves the nutrients more completely.

It’s still a method Kora finds people in the Tri-Cities aren’t as familiar with. “They haven’t drank the Kool-Aid yet, right?” she joked. “When we’re talking to bakeries, and even Spokane or Yakima, it’s people who are excited about it, and it’s less of a sell than talking to our retail customers here; it’s a whole new thing for them so there’s a lot more education that goes into it.”

The new Keene Road location will include a larger stone mill, along with the addition of a sifter, thanks to a $122,500 grant from the state Department of Agriculture as part of Covid-19 recovery funding to support local food system infrastructure.

The state said small businesses, including those owned by women and minorities, were affected by food supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and the grants are intended to increase resiliency by increasing access to locally-produced food products.

Ethos Holdings was one of 137 businesses receiving grants out of more than 700 who applied for a portion of the $17 million pot.

Along with housing the new mill and sifter, Ethos expects the new building, designed by Archibald & Company Architects, to have space for its single-origin espresso program, by Coava Coffee, along with a drive-thru and room for indoor and outdoor seating.

The excitement of the planned expansion is tempered with the current challenges faced, including a punishing winter that has kept people from venturing out on some days and the perception of access issues in The Parkway.

“Parking is not as much of a problem in the morning, when we hope our customers can come by, but it’s not as directly accessible as the Keene spot was for us, and for a lot of people, that drive-thru is really a key for being able to stop in,” Kora said. “I’ve actually heard a lot of people say they didn’t even know we had parking, and it’s just a reflection of the fact that if you’re not visible to folks, or it’s not on their typical route, it can be hard to get awareness out there.”

Kora said she has heard about more small businesses who survived the pandemic, possibly thanks to Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government, who are now facing closure due to inflation and other issues.

“I think it’s just such a complex time coming off the pandemic, and then for us, in particular, having a lot of changes happening right now, while also grappling with significant challenges in terms of increased costs. We’re still trying to figure out what a new normal looks like and the hospitality industry is historically already a tough work-life balance,” she said.

Most of the current Ethos staff is full time, working across the two retail and production locations, with a few employees who have been with the company for more than five years.

The move was burdensome enough, occurring just after Thanksgiving, and the team spent most of December settling into a smaller space while still trying to capitalize on holiday shoppers.

A plan to offer expanded options, like pizza or lunches, hasn’t happened as quickly as Kora hoped, but it’s still on the agenda.

“Unexpected barriers with the move got us more behind schedule than we anticipated, and we need to get our logistics in line first. At the end of the day, we have a lot more energy in that space because we have more activity now that it’s the one place people can get our products. We also have a lot more on the shelves and are stocking as much as we can,” she said.

Ethos holds a lease for its Parkway location for at least another two years and hasn’t made any final decisions on whether to keep both locations when it expires.

For now, Kora is focused on getting back to the Queensgate area as quickly as possible.

“It’s a great neighborhood and we’ve gotten to know a lot of the customers in that area, so we’re looking forward to it. Come find us in The Parkway in the meantime,” she said.

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