By Mandi Donohue

Working at the Mazama Store is like living in an episode of “Northern Exposure.” Every day at the bakery is a goofy new plot line full of drama and suspense with a comedic callback involving burned bagels. Despite the fact I had written myself off of the show, I was surprisingly emotional on Sunday when I exited stage right for the last time. It occurred to me — like any good television — just how much I had fallen in love with this quirky cast of characters …

First, there is Bea Kister, a German character, tough as nails. She will compliment the best thing you’ve ever made with the words “That’s not bad.” Once you get under her skin and have proven your worth, however, you realize she’s a big softie and the hardest thing about her is the Gruyere she’s grating. She has a great sense of humor and if the music is pickin’ right, you might even see her roll out dough with a song on her lips and a spring in her step. Don’t tell her I love her. Just tell her I said “She’s all right.”  

Photo by Mandi Donohue Rhodona Bucy, left, Bea Kister and Polly Lucy: characters in a retail sitcom. 

Photo by Mandi Donohue
Rhodona Bucy, left, Bea Kister and Polly Lucy: characters in a retail sitcom.

Crazy-haired Polly Lucy, the talented lead bread baker, is the character responsible for our “sea salt crack bread.” On the tiniest of legs, she’ll throw around heavy cast irons like a champ, making your ears ring across the bakery. Her booming New Englander voice isn’t afraid to tell you her opinion on everyone, everything and how it should be done!  Her interesting reads, travels and political commentary, however, make for a kindred spirit on a long day. And when she’s loopy? Her girlish, hearty laughter will bring tears to your eyes.  

The recurring role is played by Claire LeDuc, the “chatty Cathy” of the bakery, with a penchant for sleeping through an alarm so regularly it makes my inner General Manager eyes twitch. Her gregariousness is infectious, however, and within minutes you are happily resigned to ponder which character you would be from “Harry Potter.” The girl may never be around when her timer goes off but there is a reason she’s a favorite to work with: picks the best music, makes the best scones and truly shines at the store.

Guest star and long-legged beauty, Mary Sharman, will think about a cake for 46 days before she’ll try the recipe. She’s Bob Spiwak’s “daughter” and you can tell. She has a dry, wry and salacious sense of humor.  She is always concerned about something, always working on something and is always, always interesting.  She has a way with croissant dough that is enviable; I think the magic touch comes from her gentle spirit.  

Rhodona Bucy is the wacky neighbor that has clearly has spent a lot of time alone out in the warehouse preparing produce. She talks to her gorgeous vegetables like they are her babies and she is always to willing to lend the bakers a hand. She loves the world and all its creatures as much as she loves sampling apple slices out to the bakery ladies. She is a fellow wing nut whose corny, and sometimes blue sense of humor, makes me feel totally sane. I mean, if you carrot all, lettuce give whirled peas a chance…

There are so many more characters I adore and if given more words, a whole separate review could be written alone on the heart and the soul of the store, Missy LeDuc. Her kindness, undying generosity and unflappable spirit combine for a performance truly worth a standing ovation. My heart will always stay tuned in. But for now, this “regularly moody, always right, OCD-workaholic who makes decent enough wedding cakes, desserts that are too sweet and loves the sound of her own voice” character has a new show to get to …  It’ll be interesting to see what part I play next.

Break a leg, Mazama Store! I love you all.  And, um … sniff, sniff … somebody might want to check the bagels.

PREVIOUSLY, IN MAZAMA