Note: This is the first article in a new series highlighting Ferndale High School alumni who have made an impact, both locally and beyond the Ferndale community.
When Barb O’Brine was growing up in Ferndale in the 1970’s, there was a German bakery downtown called The Ferndale Bakery. It was hugely popular among locals at the time, and O’Brine said she has fond memories of grabbing donuts during lunch.
Now, as the owner of Barb’s Pies and Pastries – also located in downtown Ferndale and serving delicious pies, donuts, and more – O’Brine said she hopes to provide a similar feeling for the current generation of Ferndale residents.
“When these little kids that are 8, 9 years old are my age, they can be like, ‘Oh, I remember this bakery,’” O’Brine said. “It’ll be nice to have that legacy carry on.”
Barb’s Pies and Pastries has been feeding Ferndale’s sweet tooth since 1999, from its humble beginnings in the basement of Cedars restaurant to its current location on Main Street. O’Brine and her bakers make about 180 donuts each morning, along with an assortment of pies, scones, cinnamon rolls, and other goodies.
O’Brine isn’t buying these pastries from far away and re-heating them – the treats are made entirely in-house, using almost exclusively local ingredients (such as berries from Whatcom County farms). If you visit, O’Brine said the best thing they make is their bumbleberry crumble pie, with blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries.
“We do everything from scratch,” O’Brine said. “I’m really fussy about my quality.”
Despite being one of the area’s most tenured bakers, O’Brine started her career by cooking. Her very first job was a cook at the Clam Digger in Birch Bay as a teenager, and she was hired as a line cook at Cedars not long after graduating from Ferndale High School in 1979. She worked in Cedars’ kitchen for nearly 30 years.
By 1997, O’Brine had three kids in Ferndale schools. She was looking for more flexible hours, so she could spend time with them. When a baking position opened at Cedars, she jumped at the chance, even though it wasn’t something she had a ton of experience in. Having hours that weren’t exclusively evenings and working at a less hectic pace was appealing.
“Being a line cook is really challenging and it’s really fun, but it got to the point where I couldn’t keep up with the pace,” O’Brine said. “Baking is slower-paced, it’s more creative, so that became very attractive to me.”
Even though baking started as more of a logistical choice than a passion, O’Brine learned to love the craft. In particular, she loves baking pies, which she said can be an effective stress reliever.
“It’s something that’s a rhythm,” O’Brine said of baking pies. “When you’re having a tough day, getting your hands in the dough and rolling it out is just a really comforting thing.”
After a couple more moves, Barb’s Pies and Pastries settled into its current location on Main Street in October 2022. The location has huge wall paintings of local landmarks like the Metallica bridge and Mt. Baker. And unlike previous locations, it has seating, giving the store a cozy coffee shop vibe.
O’Brine said she had a great time attending FHS in the ‘70s. She played trombone for the Golden Eagles marching band and her favorite class was civics with Mr. Faulk. She is the second of three generations of FHS grads – both her parents attended the school in the late ‘50s, and her children are also Golden Eagle alumni.
O’Brine said her favorite part about owning the bakery is connecting with her fellow locals.
“We have people I grew up with and their parents are still coming in,” she said. “It just feels really good to be a part of the community.”