PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A new bakery is combining Italian American sweets, botanicals, and east coast influence for a new Portland shop.
Before Flour Bloom‘s Grand Avenue opening on Wednesday, Bree Licata picked up baking as a hobby at 18-years-old while working as a receptionist.
“I would take box mixes and stuff and make them funky and I would start doing it for friends and family and parties,” Licata said. “I always knew from the time that I was 18 that I wanted my own shop of some sort. At the time it was the cupcake craze and then the donut craze and I always wanted something. It just meant a lot to me to just focus on that wholeheartedly.”
After a breakup around 2015, the New York native decided to enroll in culinary school where she fell in love with baking. Her externship in Portland led to gigs at local staples like Pine State Biscuits, Salt & Straw, and Grand Central Bakery, where she gained more hands-on baking and business skills, and discovered what she wanted to bring to Portland.
“Around 2020, when COVID happened, I decided I did not want to work for anybody else. I wholeheartedly wanted to put everything I had into a project for myself and for the community,” Licata explained.
In 2022, Licata found Flour Bloom’s future location, where she “wanted to bring a little east coast to the area,” reminiscent of New York bodegas and delis.
“I missed, specifically, a lot of the stuff that I ate growing up – the rainbow cookies, the kaiser rolls, the butter cookies and stuff that we would bring on cookie platters for holidays, and parties, and occasions. I just felt that was missing. I felt like I couldn’t find anything like that so, Flour Bloom came to fruition,” Licata said.
Flour Bloom offers an assortment of food from sandwiches with house-made focaccia, gelato, “cannoli for days,” and Italian American rainbow cookies, made with marionberry jam instead of the traditional apricot or raspberry jam as a nod to Oregon.
Flour Bloom also serves a variety of beverages, including lattes and cappuccinos with edible glitter.
“I have a lot of anxiety and as a kid, there were things that I didn’t know that I know now, like I have ADHD and there’s a lot of things that helped me and soothed me as a kid or at least growing up and having something to focus on. I honestly believe baking was one of my first hyper fixations. I think it was something I latched on to and it’s something that I enjoy,” Licata said. “I love good food, so for somebody to compliment me on good food is a really, really high compliment.”
A plant hobbyist, Licata says Flour Bloom will also sell plants, pots, and other goods from local vendors.
“I have my own rare plant collection at my house that I have been taking cuttings and propagations of in order to give people who collect plants in the community also another way, an outlet, to get them more affordably. I believe in accessibility, so we’re trying to do that as well,” Licata said.
“I love plants, I find them to be really relaxing, and fun. There’s so many different varieties and I really wanted to marry both the plant aspect and the bakery aspect and that just evolved into well, if we’re going to have plants, we’re going to need pottery. And if we’re going to have pottery, I want local vendors. And if we’re going to have local vendors for pottery, I want to have local vendors for other things.”
Turning the space into a bakery/café/plant and décor shop, Licata says Flour Bloom has “a little bit of everything for everyone.”
The bakery is also adorned with disco balls for a retro theme inspired by her mom.
“It’s in homage to my mom, she does disco event management. That’s her job and she has a lot of disco bands that she promotes and puts on shows for and it’s just something that I grew up around,” Licata said.
Licata says from the moment she moved to Oregon in 2012, she knew she wanted to set roots in Portland after falling in love with the nature and scenery. She explained, “I love Oregon and I don’t see myself living anywhere else so, it only made sense to open up something that I was passionate about where I was going to be passionate doing it.”
With Flour Bloom, she also wants to give back to the community.
“We’re already very community driven but we’re also going to be very charity driven and giving back to the point where we’re implementing something in our shop called the Neighborhood Fund where people are able to donate $1, $2, or $3 of their order to the Neighborhood Fund, which is going to be able to feed somebody else who may be less fortunate or unable to pay for their meal.”
Every month, staff members will also choose a charity to donate to, and plan on hosting clothing drives for the holidays.