The demand for Artfetti’s delectable macarons has prompted the small Kennewick bakery to expand its offerings.
“Some days we sell out by 4 p.m.,” said co-owner José Garcia, who opened Artfetti with his wife, Silvia, in June 2016.
Not to be confused with macaroons, the chewy drop cookie most commonly made from ground almonds or coconut, macarons — pronounced “mak-uh-rahn”— are an art form all their own.
“It is one of the most difficult things to make,” said Silvia, a self-taught baker.
The confections are “small, cute and petite, but complex in flavor,” José said.
Artfetti sells daily rotating flavors of macarons, cupcakes, truffles, ready-to-go cakes, and other baked goodies at its front counter and fulfills custom orders for macarons and cupcakes to complement any occasion.
Almost everything at Artfetti is hand-mixed, including the final batter, which is made using the “macronnage process,” a time-sensitive “technique of folding egg whites into the sugar and almond flour mix and is integral to getting the cookie right,” Silvia said.
“Timing is everything,” José said.
Numerous factors contribute to a successful batch of macarons, including the adjustment of resting times based on seasonal conditions, and the calibration of time spent on macronnage for each individual worker.
“It’s definitely a science,” Silvia said. “We put everything down to timers.”
“We strive to have a consistent product that brings people back,” José added.
A baker and an artist, Silvia hand-paints designs on the macarons for any occasion. Macarons also can be baked in many different shapes.
It takes three people about six hours to make twelve batches. The Garcias employ three staff members and they do much of their baking on Mondays, when the shop is closed, due to the overnight aging process required for macarons.
Artfetti offers nearly 40 flavors to order, and up to 28 at their front counter daily.
Since Artfetti uses a traditional almond flour, the macarons are naturally gluten-free, depending on the flavor selected.
Artfetti’s focus in the coming year will be on the macarons as their popularity has skyrocketed. The store will no longer be taking custom cake orders for the upcoming year. Existing orders will be honored.
“I loved making cakes, but wanted it to be mainly a macaron shop,” Silvia said.
That dream is becoming a reality for the young owners, who left their jobs in Seattle to open the bakery in the Tri-Cities.
“We wanted to bring something you normally find in big cities here,” Silvia said.
More affordable leasing options were one of the factors prompting their return to the Columbia Basin, which is where they were raised.
“It started in 2011, when Silvia baked a cake for our daughter’s first birthday,” José recalled. “Friends and family started making requests for cakes and we did it out of our home. Then people we didn’t know started asking.”
The couple couldn’t qualify for a business loan, and instead turned to their own existing funds and resources to launch their small business.
“There was a lot of sacrifice and sleepless nights,” Silvia said.
Artfetti’s current space behind the Olive Garden had been vacant for almost two years after the White Buddha Lounge closed. The store’s kitchen was extensively remodeled, and the front shop area was renovated for a clean and modern feel.
“It means so much because it is our lives—it is everything we have,” José said. “We feel the need to step up production because the market is expanding, and it’s expanding quick.”
The macaron offerings at their front counter have increased from six trays to twelve trays.
“We want to make it a part of everyday life; you don’t have to go out and buy a full-size cake to get that sugar fix you’re looking for,” he said.
His wife said macarons, though stemming from Italian and French baking traditions, have become popular in the United States due in part to the variety of flavors that can be applied to them.
“We’ve actually had some French customers that rated ours really well,” José said.
“Fruity pebbles is one of our most popular flavors,” Silvia said.
Customers order macarons for weddings, baby showers or company functions, the couple said.
“We have people come in and ask for a gift box all the time because they’re going to the hospital to see a loved one. It’s something a little different you can give to someone who already has everything they need,” Silvia said.
Previously, the Garcias reported many customers had to travel as far as Portland to find quality macarons. They said they regularly see customers from Hermiston, Walla Walla and Yakima who make the trip solely to buy their macarons.
“We build relationships with (our customers), not just learn their name,” Silvia said. “We really try to listen to our customers. We are constantly improving on our flavors.”
The Garcias said repeat customers and word of mouth are their best forms of advertising, especially when customers choose Artfetti for a special event.
Mary Clifford of Prosser, a regular customer, said she came in on a whim after seeing their sign.
“Once you’re in the door, you’re just hooked. … We travel a lot, and make a point of getting macarons now when we see a place that sells them, and I still haven’t found their equal,” she said.
She said these trips have included forays to shops in New York, San Francisco and other major cities.
“It’s easy to support their business because they have a great product,” she said. Clifford also has placed custom orders. “They are very creative and they think outside the box.”
After considering available marketing options, the Garcias turned to Facebook and Instagram’s free services. “Social media has been our lifesaver,” Silvia said.
They said their “two for Tuesday” deal definitely brings people in.
“On Tuesdays, your first two macarons are only $2,” José said. The promotion is intended to draw in customers to try new flavors.
A single macaron normally costs $1.80. A six-pack sells for $10.50 and a 12-pack for $20.40. Gift boxes cost extra.
For Halloween, Artfetti ran a free coloring contest for kids, where the winner won a dozen of anything out of the shop’s display case. They also sold $3 Halloween-themed cookie decorating kits.
“We want to do something like that for every major holiday,” José said.
The Garcias’ dream is to open more Artfetti locations in the future.
“We are very grateful for all the customers; everyone is so nice and it is so nice to feel that support … they’ve kept us in business.”
Artfetti is at 1360 N. Louisiana St. Suite F, in Kennewick and is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. It is closed Sunday and Monday. For more information, call 509-579-0325 or find them on Facebook.
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