Defying the odds: Vegan bakery beats pandemic

Getting grounded from oven was just the start of successful business for allergy, vegan-friendly bakery owner



SugarBabe Bakery offers vegan and allergy friendly foods for a less stress experience.

SAYDEE PHOTHIVONGSA, Evergreen news editor

For most kids, getting grounded means getting toy privileges taken away. For Melanie Voorhees, her groundings meant she got her oven privileges taken away. 

“When I was old enough to use an oven by myself,  I started burning myself on the oven so frequently that my mom took it away and she was like, ‘Okay, you either have to do it with me or you can’t bake at all,’” she said. 

Voorhees’ fond memories of cooking for her family growing up helped to solidify her passion for baking. So much so that she now owns Sugar Babe Bakery, a vegan and allergy-friendly bakery in downtown Pullman. 

“People are always asking, why did you start your business during the pandemic? And I say ‘I don’t know,’” Voorhees said.  

Before the pandemic began, Voorhees knew she wanted to open a storefront in Pullman, but those plans were put on hold through 2020, she said. 

“If anything, one good thing coming out of the pandemic, I feel like people have more of a newfound appreciation for small businesses and local businesses and pouring their money and attention into [them] and I think that’s super important,” Voorhees said. 

One of Voorhees’ focuses for the bakery is to create an inclusive and warm environment where people want to spend their time, she said. 

“I really love when people feel comfortable to hang out and bring their homework and stuff and I want it to feel like a warm cozy space where you feel comfortable doing that,” Voorhees said.  

Sugar Babe officially got its start about two years ago in Colfax, Washington before Voorhees decided to open a storefront in Pullman nine months ago, she said. 

“I always knew that my customer base was in Pullman, especially with the student population. I started in Colfax as kind of a trial run to see if it was something I wanted to do [and] if I had the customer base there,” Voorhees said. 

Originally, Voorhees was baking for fun and to raise donations for her non-profit Saving for a Storm, an organization she created to raise funds for life-saving animal procedures and finding homes for furry friends. 

“It just always made me really uncomfortable as a kid, eating meat and the whole idea of it because I’ve always loved animals so much. And ever since I  knew what vegan was I was really interested just to eliminate [meat]  in general,” she said. 

Kayla Thomas, who has lived in Pullman for 25 years, said that it is great to have a place to get treats without having to worry about gluten or dairy, which she can’t have. 

“When you have allergies or special dietary needs, there just really isn’t much around here for you outside of just getting packaged stuff you know, you can actually get something yummy and delicious and feel special,” she said. 

It has been sufficiently difficult to find places to eat out in Pullman as a vegan, Voorhees said. Many of the restaurants she loved before going vegan, she can no longer eat at.

“I love supporting other restaurants around here. And I’ve seen a lot of places getting vegan options, O- Ramen is one of my favorite places,” Voorhees said, “and I just realized that it was something that people needed in the area.”

Since we’ve entered the fall season, Voorhees has been having a blast coming up with fall-themed baked goods and drinks such as the Bloodline Lotus, apple cider donuts and pumpkin chocolate chunk cookies, she said. 

Sugar Babe Bakery is open Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is located at 317 E Main St.