WHITEFISH — With a name like Fleur Bake Shop, it’s apropos that this bakery started small and with the same untold potential of a seed. It’s also fitting that through nurturing, growth, and a helpful season of sunshine each year, the bakery has truly begun to blossom.
After its inception in 2017 and spending its first years of life in a small retail shop and kitchen behind Lakestream Fly Shop, Fleur is ready to branch out with plans to take over the Red Caboose storefront in downtown Whitefish in the spring.
“It’s really exciting,” owner and Pastry Chef Whitney Brien said last week.
Though it only opened in April 2017, Fleur Bake Shop has already taken on a reputation of creating delicious, gorgeous, and unmissable desserts and pastries. Brien provided the baked goodies for the 2018 Great Northwest Oktoberfest here; diners at Indah Sushi know her macarons, and Latitude 48 uses her focaccia and baguettes.
It’s been a whirlwind, Brien said, but in the best ways.
“I learned a lot that first year being in business,” she said. “It was about getting used to the seasonal flow, so this winter we knew what to expect. We’re also fortunate that the word has gotten out about us. It’s been very cool to get out and do these events.”
Fleur has a devoted client base made largely of individual retail orders that range from a single serving of brownies and croissants to larger orders for businesses. Clients order ahead and pick up their goodies, or they come down to the shop’s small retail space and choose from there.
Brien also has a few wholesale clients, but learned quickly that the bread and butter of her business would be cakes and treats in the summertime when the wedding bells ring nonstop throughout the Flathead Valley.
Summers are busy enough that Brien has to hire staff to run the front of the house while she and her two full- and nearly full-time employees pump out the cakes, cookies, tartlets, croissants, bread, pastries, cannelé, macarons, and more.
Originally from a Michigan family that loves to cook and bake together, Brien started her life in Montana when she decided to go to Montana State University in Bozeman for college. Her dad lived in Red Lodge and piqued her interest in Big Sky Country, and when she arrived in Bozeman, she knew Montana could be home.
Her classes centered on photography, which she thought she wanted to pursue professionally, and she worked in a local bakery to pay the bills. That job became a hobby, as Brien started experimenting with recipes that she often foisted onto her friends.
“I found out baking was my true passion after all,” Brien said.
With this understanding, Brien attended the L’Art du Gâteau (which translates as “the art of the cake”) program at The French Pastry School in Chicago. After graduating in 2012, she worked on her baking and pastry skills in Colorado and Portland, Oregon before making the move to Whitefish.
Her job allows her the joy of baking while also using the creativity she originally applied to photography – her tartlets are as aesthetically pleasing as they are delicious, for example.
“I can be creative with my mind’s eye with all the different flavors and designs,” Brien said.
Mood and circumstance determine her favorite item to bake, and it changes every few weeks, but lately the tartlets have her attention, as does a s’mores recipe for her macarons that involves graham crackers in the cookies and a filling of chocolate ganache and marshmallow all rolled in graham cracker crumbs.
Being the bake shop’s owner means she can take it in any direction she’d like, a freedom Brien loves about Fleur and intends to bring to downtown Whitefish in the spring.
“It’s awesome because when an idea strikes, I can just go for it,” Brien said.
For more information on Fleur Bake Shop, visit www.fleurbakeshop.com.