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Originally published Monday, February 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Baker's Restaurant to end 50-year, 4-generation run

As soon as she heard the news, Sarah Ammons hugged the counter. She spent so many childhood birthdays at Baker's Restaurant, blowing out...

Seattle Times staff reporter

As soon as she heard the news, Sarah Ammons hugged the counter. She spent so many childhood birthdays at Baker's Restaurant, blowing out candles on biscuits. Her parents have eaten there ever since they got engaged, when a friend brought them to celebrate in those red leather booths.

"They fell in love with it," said Ammons, 18, now a waitress at the restaurant. "Every Saturday morning in my childhood, we came here." After more than 50 years, and four generations, the family behind Baker's will close its Lake City restaurant after Wednesday to devote their days to chocolate. They plan to sell candy wholesale from now on, working out of the building's basement, with a Chinese-American restaurant operating above.

On Saturday, the faces of customers went slack with surprise. They did not know the family had sold the building, or that the restaurant business, after so many years, had become too much of a strain.

Tree McCurdy, 30, of Lake City, looked around the room, with its pink-and-beige wallpaper and its faded black-and-white photographs in frames. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling. The soda fountain lost its counter years ago.

"Times change," she said. "But oh, I'm going to miss this."

The business began in 1920, when Ernie and Barbara Baker set up shop at Pike Place Market, stuffing California dates with walnuts and rolling them in powdered sugar. It soon blossomed into something more, with hand-dipped chocolates, fudges and other homemade candies.

Then in 1946, at a time when people still left their keys in their cars, Baker's Old Fashioned Sweet Parlour and Restaurant was born.

Candy shop won't close right away


The chocolate shop at Baker's Restaurant will remain open through Valentine's Day. After that, the family will sell its chocolate wholesale to The Confectionary near University Village and to Namas Candy Store in Edmonds.

Nancy Prevele was a teenager when her parents opened the restaurant. On Saturday, at the age of 73, she had a few choice words about those early days as a waitress.

"Nepotism is not fun for the whole family," she said.

But through the decades, she came to love the work. After a break for college, and another to raise her three children, Prevele returned to the business with her husband, and she has not left since.

She now works with her two daughters, Lee and Dina Prevele, and a granddaughter, Nicole Ferrari.

Nancy Prevele knows the life story of every regular customer. They are "honey" or "baby" to her.

There go Walt and Lin Robinson, with their teenage son Trevor. When Walt was laid up in the hospital for seven months, with nothing to eat but dull, dry food, Prevele stocked him with chocolate from Baker's retail shop, which sits right next to the restaurant.

"Every time I walked in here, she had something for me," said Lin Robinson, 53.

Customers on Saturday said they would miss the menu that reads like a book, with everything in it from "Eggs Arnold" to old-fashioned malts. But mostly, they said, they would miss the feel of family that comes with the place.

It reminds Nancy Martini, 73, of the small town in Eastern Washington where she grew up. She has come to Baker's every week for the past 20 years, just for that comfort.

"This has been like a little corner, where everyone knows to go," she said.

Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or csolomon@seattletimes.com

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