Prineville’s new venture is already a big hit with locals who have a sweet tooth and love coffee
On a Thursday morning, a line is already forming at 9 a.m. at Auntie’s Coffeehouse and Bakery.
The aroma of baked goods and coffee attracts customers, as they eye the bakery case filled with lemon bars, delicious cookies, sticky buns and other homemade treats. Auntie’s, located at 425 North Main Street, officially opened on Friday, February 11.
The bakery and cafe offer a wide assortment of coffee drinks — including mochas, lattes, and chia — as well as daily specials and specialty drinks. Baked goods go as fast as their baker can replenish them.
Pamela Thomas is the family business’s in-house baker, and she smiles as she remembers that her morning starts around 2 a.m. She prepares her delicious baked goods in a licensed kitchen at the back of the business, and she broke up her busy morning to share her fascinating beginnings and journey as a baker.
Pamela first started working in Nashville, Tennessee in the music business. After being disillusioned and unhappy, she had to pull herself together and decide what to do. About 20 years ago, she returned to her hometown in Oregon, in the Salem area. She loved to cook and she quickly got her cooking license. Although she only cooked at home, her baked goods quickly caught the attention of Nordstrom in Portland.
At that time, she was baking cookies, brownies, bars and cookies for breakfast.
“They were very popular. It was just me in my house and my mom was helping me as much as she could,” Thomas said. “I ended up buying a coffee in Salem.”
She named it Sweetpeas and ran it for a year and a half. It was closed in 2008 because she was too overwhelmed trying to make it work on her own
“We closed the bakery, and I was so sad. I missed it ever since. I always wanted to come back.”
She’s excited to be back doing what she loves – and obviously has a knack for it. At the new cafe and bakery, she has the support of her family and loves being back in the kitchen cooking for her local customers.
Pam’s brother Tim Thomas moved with his family (Pamela included) to Prineville two years ago and opened Knucklehead Tattoo on North Main Street soon after. Thomas is also a co-pastor of a ministry called The Church on Main Street with Bob Nash, which initially used space at Crooked River Brewing (now Crooked Roots Brewing). Due to complications with COVID restrictions, they began looking for a space that could accommodate their growing congregation. About a year and a half ago, they rented the space on the south side of their store for youth groups and Bible studies.
“We had that, and so we thought, ‘why don’t we just go here, and we know we can meet,'” Tim said of their decision to move the church to the other side. from the street to the new space next to his store.
Early on, Tim said their family discussed what they could do with the space, in addition to church, youth group and Bible studies. They had considered a cafe several times and three months ago they had made the collective decision to pursue the idea.
“It’s been great and it’s been very busy. Prineville is great and it’s been amazing for us,” Tim said.
He added that the church is growing and the space has also been amazing. His family pooled their money and resources and started the cafe and bakery. Pamela said she cooks dinner on Wednesdays for a group of young people and the young people call her “aunt”. The name stuck, and so the name was transferred to the new cafe and bakery.
Tonya Thomas, Tim’s wife, is Aunt’s barista, and she said she quit her job at Pack, Ship, and More to keep up with the company’s growth.
“It was good and it was really fun,” Tonya said of her role as a barista.
She said they considered adding live music to their store, in addition to a live mic and fun entertainment. They already have a professional sound booth in their premises due to the Sunday morning church and the youth group.
Pam said she will earn another oven soon, as she often runs out of baked goods before noon.
“They’re hungry in Prineville.”
Family members also help, including Tonya and Tim’s daughter, Macy, and son, Jack. Pamela added that Jack likes to help with the cooking early in the morning.
“It’s a great vibe,” Tonya added. “A lot of people say, ‘It’s really nice here.'”
My aunt’s cafe and bakery
Owners: Tim and Tonya Thomas
425 Main Street North
Contact also via Facebook
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
You rely on us to stay informed and we rely on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.