Poulsbo is a small town of 10,000 people, nestled in between the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges and the Puget Sound in Washington State. Originally settled by a group of Norwegian immigrants who felt that the shores of Liberty Bay reminded them of the fjords of their motherland. Because of Poulsbo’s Nordic roots, the town is known as “Little Norway” to the region. The mascot for the high school is a Viking, the town holds an annual Viking Festival and has a very prominent Sons of Norway lodge, and most of the downtown businesses feature Norwegian themes. On the central street in the small historic downtown district, Front Street, many of the shops either sell Norwegian goods, or at the very least feature rosemaling traditional painting.
Directly in the center of Poulsbo’s Front Street lies Sluys Bakery, the best-known business in the town, and another Norway-inspired shop. Owned by the Sluys family since 1966, the bakery is a staple for Poulsbo life, and engages both town residents and visitors. Sluys is the only bakery in downtown – although several others have attempted to make their mark on this small town, nothing can compare to the popularity of Sluys, and all competition eventually fails to claim a slice of the market.
When you open the door to Sluys, you are immediately struck by a warm rush of air, rich with nutmeg, cinnamon, butter, and sticky-sweet icing. With a standing area of approximately 9 by 12 square feet, there isn’t ever much room to stand, but this tight packing of customers does not deter business from the bakery. The shop offers a range of delicious donuts and cookies that are baked on-site, in the kitchens directly behind the public space.
Sluys doesn’t escape the Scandinavian theme of the town – they sell lefse and several other traditional Norwegian baked goods, as well as various pastries that are shaped like Viking helmets. In this manner, Sluys has obvious global connections. Like the town as a whole, Sluys attempts to create a clear connection to the town’s “motherland” – even though most residents aren’t more than one-eighth Norwegian. The bakery is also known internationally for its “Poulsbo Bread,” which is no longer produced on site because the bakery lacks the production capacity to service the global demand for the bread, but it is still baked and packaged under the Sluys label.
It is critical to note the local elements of Sluys Bakery. The shop frequently donates to local events and provides discounts to students at the local high school. Their donuts are sold at local small grocery stores and the shop is a go-to stop for young and old, regardless of the season. The shop itself is managed by the son of the original owners and almost all of the employees are students from the town’s high school.
Sluys Bakery is a unique case study for the local and global elements of small businesses because of its dual nature. Although it is clearly Norway-inspired, and has global connections due to its internationally known bread, the shop is closely tied to the community and Poulsbo culture.