Often, a business is a chapter in an entrepreneur’s life. But with a century-old business, it is more like each entrepreneur is a chapter in the life of the business. This is especially true for the Black Diamond Bakery, which has had at least seven owners during its august history, dating back 117 years.
To understand the history of the bakery, one must first learn about the town of Black Diamond. As the name would suggest, the town was founded in the 1880s as a rural coal mining hub, and developed by the Black Diamond Coal Mining Company of California.
By the early 1900s, the mine in Black Diamond was one of the largest coal mining and exporting operations on the West Coast. This catapulted Black Diamond to a boomtown status as the population swelled to close to 3,500 people, many of them European immigrants. Of those residents, nearly all males of employable age worked in the mine.
It was around that time that Willard Hadley recognized the need for a place where workers could gather and, quite literally, break bread.
Hadley borrowed what he needed to construct the bakery and its massive brick oven on land that was owned by the Black Diamond Mining Company and leased to Pacific Coast Coal Company. Hadley ran the bakery for several decades and employed many of his family members, including his father-in-law; his daughter; and his son, who eventually ran the daily operations.
Following the Hadley family’s reign, the Pacific Coast Coal Company sold the bakery to George Eipper in 1944, and Eipper continued operations for close to 20 years. Over the subsequent half-century, ownership of the bakery changed hands many times, with each owner leaving his or her own mark on the historic business.
In 1989, owner Doug Weiding added a deli wing onto the south-facing side of the bakery building, and several years later added a coffee shop on the north end. In 2010, owners Seoung and Moon Bang added a juice bar and ice cream shop to the existing coffee shop.
During much of the Bangs’ reign, local residents Eunjeong and Insung Kang were regular customers at Black Diamond Bakery. Last year, when the Bangs were preparing for retirement, the Kangs purchased the business.
Eunjeong said one of her favorite things about Black Diamond Bakery is its past. It is because of this legacy that Eunjeong said she feels like she can never take full ownership of the bakery. “I know about the history of this place; everyone loves it, and I feel like the bakery and restaurant is not mine,” she said.
It is this love of place that keeps customers flocking to the tiny bakery with its delectable apple fritters, hearty bread, and stunning view of Mount Rainier. And it’s not just locals who love it. Eunjeong said people come from all over Washington and beyond based on the recommendations received from friends and family who fall under the establishment’s spell.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that the bakery often uses its original brick oven to bake its famous bread. Eunjeong said this is a huge motivation for visitors. And for an establishment that uses an oven from the year of its founding over a century ago, it’s logical to wonder what the next chapter in the life of this business will look like.
The Kangs aren’t ready to sell any time soon, but that doesn’t mean the next chapter doesn’t contain a plot twist or two. The master planned community Ten Trails currently is going up just a few blocks away from the bakery and is expected to grow Black Diamond’s population of about 4,000 — where it has held steady for decades — by another 5,700 or more, and will include a commercial area that could divert business from the bakery.
This is something that Eunjeong and her husband were aware of when they bought the business, but she said she knows they have something special in Black Diamond Bakery.
“We have a special history, special food, and a special bakery, so I really don’t think about it,” she said. “When I decided to buy this business, I really thought about it, but my husband and I made a decision because this is a totally different (kind of place). I’m really proud of our business.”