Blue Scorcher Cafe: Dedicated and delicious

Blue Scorcher Logo


When the owners of Astoria's artisan bread bakery left town in 2004, a group of five local bread lovers decided to take action. They each agreed to spend one day a week baking the labor-intensive, high quality bread they appreciated so much. So was born the Bread Collective.

To bread aficianados, artisan breads are highly valued. These loaves are shaped by hand and usually take longer to rise and prepare. They require a special commitment of time and dedication.


At first, the collective sold bread to the local co-op and then set up a booth at the fabulous Astoria Sunday Market. Eventually, they helped renovate the historic Fort George Building just blocks from the Columbia River. When the business dubbed Blue Scorcher took off -- with more products, more demands and more employees -- the collective's members agreed it was time for a change in structure.

Today, the Blue Scorcher is owned by Scorcher Artisan Cooperative. Of the 31 employees, 11 are owners.

Food, values, community

The cooperative exemplifies its values: It's local, conscientious and has grown organically. Here are some ways this little business acts on its responsibilities to the community and the environment:

What is a scorcher?

  • They compost everything they can, scraping any morsel of leftover food into bins later collected by local chicken farmers. In exchange, the coop receives eggs produced by those farmers' hens.
  • They avoid plastics whenever and however possible. The coop uses cellophane bread bags made from wood product wastes. Coop members feel these are better for preserving bread because they "breathe," allowing in just enough air to keep bread fresh. And they are fully compostable. As an experiment, two customers buried some bags in their compost heap. By the tenth week, the bags couldn't be distinguished from the rest of the compost.
  • The bakery uses organic flours and purchases local, organic ingredients for its other products. The cooperative emphasizes seasonal foods to take advantage of fresh produce, reduce energy use associated with transportation, and support neighboring farms and producers.
  • Blue Scorcher is a member of the Smart Energy Circle, because coop members want to reduce their carbon footprint in any way they can. They are committed to using as little energy as possible and offsetting greenhouse gases when possible.
  • They subscribe to green energy from their local power company. And they switched some of their cooking equipment to natural gas, recognizing that it is a great fuel for grilling and sautéing -- but also that natural gas cook tops are highly efficient.
  • Strengthening community is part of the bakery's mission statement. Coop members see the bakery as a gathering place that's central to healthy connections. Each week, they contribute fresh bread to organizations feeding the hungry in their county.


Joe Garrison, the bakery's manager, talks glowingly about the enduring community spirit in Astoria. He knows how residents and businesses rallied first to support locally made bread and then to encourage the employee-owned bakery. But his wasn't the only business to find that kind of support.  "We all have a fierce commitment to supporting wise growth and sustainable development at the mouth of the Columbia."

Scorcher Bread