The Brilliant Baker
Robin Wehl Martin established her reputation in Seattle years ago. A winner of the “Best Classic Whoopie Pie” prize at Oddfellows Whoopie Pie Bake-off, an honoree for “Overall Awesomeness” at the City Arts Pie Life competition, and a first place awardee at the Crossroads Farmer’s Market bakeoff, she holds some of the city’s most important trophies. And what does one do after racking up such success? Open your own cookie shop, of course. With a little prod from her friend, Seattle’s ice cream maven Molly Moon Neitzel, Wehl Martin opened Hello Robin in Capitol Hill in 2013. It’s a chic shop that serves such flavors as orange habanero chocolate chip. Plus, she scoops Moon Neitzel’s ice cream there too, sandwiched between her cookies. We probably don’t need to say this, but… Do. Not. Miss. It.
The inside of the store looks gorgeous. How did you develop the perfect cookie shop design?
When my husband and I first decided to open a bakery, we attempted to check out every significant bakery, cafe, or ice cream shop we could find. We decided we didn’t want anything that felt old-timey and rustic. We’re big fans of that vibe, but we wanted a space that felt elegant, yet whimsical. We partnered with Graham Baba Architects and they really helped us develop the look. Metis Construction was great at understanding what I wanted and executing on it.
The hardest part was convincing my husband that, yes, we did need to splurge on the beautiful Tom Dixon light fixtures that hang over the island and the sexy, customized Granada tile on the front counter. We also wanted the space to look and feel as though customers were in our home kitchen. And Hello Robin is, actually, very similar to our home kitchen with a big island where guests sit, talk, and eat while I make yummy food.
Your friend and Seattle’s favorite ice cream guru, Molly Moon Neitzel, encouraged you to open your shop. How did you two become friends, and how has the relationship impacted your respective businesses?
Molly didn’t just encourage us to open a shop, she told us, “you need to open a shop at 19th and Mercer.” We’d never done any sort of retail food business, so we were a little apprehensive, but she convinced us. We’ll be forever grateful. She was a great business mentor for us while we wrote the business plan, did the build out, and became operational. And she’s still a great friend.
We originally met when she started stalking me. It’s true! (You can call her and fact-check this.) We were at a Bastille Day party and she recognized me and my kids from a blog I used to write for my in-laws and anyone else who stumbled across it. She introduced herself and admitted to reading my blog. We became fast friends. At that time I was obsessively baking for anyone and everyone. We were buying 50 pound bags of flour for our home use. I baked a lot of cookies for Molly and her husband because they had given us their chickens and chicken coop—I used those eggs to bake goodies for them. That’s what planted the seed for what became Hello Robin.
You’ve lived in Seattle most of your life. How have you seen the city’s food and beverage scene (in particular the dessert scene) change?
When I was in college (think early ’90s), there were really only a handful of dessert places (this doesn’t include Dairy Queen and Baskin Robbins). B and O espresso and Pacific Desserts were my favorites and we’d go late at night to meet up with friends and grab a slice of cake. We felt very sophisticated! Now, there are so many places it’s hard to keep up with each significant new restaurant or dessert place. But trust me, I’ve tried all the dessert spots! There are a lot of good places out there.
What new flavors can we expect this summer?
I’m constantly experimenting with new flavors. Right now I’m working on a berry cobbler cookie, which is a triple-berry white chocolate chip cookie with an oatmeal crumble on top. Also in the works is a picnic chip cookie, which involves popcorn, pretzels, potato chips, and chocolate chips. And be on the lookout for tahini chocolate chip, black pepper sugar cookies, and mocha chip crunch!