The Story of Bake’s
The Wild Side
From early on, it was clear that Craig Baker would have a future in the music business.
When he was just six years old, Craig and his brother put on shows from the front porch of their family home in Washougal, WA. Curious neighbors looked on while the Baker brothers lip-synced to the likes of Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. This was when Craig realized that performing in front of an audience could be fun. The trajectory was set.
In 1964, Craig joined his first band– The Wild Side. He had heard that a group of teenagers in town had formed a garage band that was playing rock n’ roll and blues. He approached the band members and convinced then to bring him on as their lead singer. They agreed and this was the start of a seven-year run for the group. The first gig was a dance at the Grange Hall in Washougal. They charged 25 cents per person and packed the hall. The band had a very limited repertoire at the time. They only knew ten songs, which they played over and over throughout the two-hour duration of the dance. The members of the Wild Side were an “entrepreneurial bunch” and were keen to seek out performance opportunities for the band. After their success at the Grange Hall, they rented out the I.O.O.F. hall in nearby Camas and played for dances every Saturday night. The hall rental was 15 dollars a night and the band pulled in roughly $400, which they split six ways. These were pretty good wages for a small town band of teenage rock n’ rollers.
The Portland Years
After high school graduation, Craig enrolled in a culinary arts program at Clark College in Vancouver, WA. The Wild Side was still active and played a regular gig at a club called the Longhorn in Portland, OR. The gig soon became weekly and ultimately increased to six nights a week. On Friday and Saturday nights, the Longhorn was filled with fans eager to dance to the grooves of the Wild Side. An after hours scene quickly developed. The band often played until 5:00am and local musicians dropped in regularly to sit in. As the band’s popularity increased, so did its opportunities. Soon, The Wild Side was in rotation at multiple nightclubs throughout Portland and was playing seven nights a week.
“I have an empty basement and a piano.”
After his second year at Clark, Craig got what he characterizes as a “real job” and spent the next 30 or so years raising a family and working in the sales and engineering industry. His work took him from Portland to Boston, from Boston to Los Angeles and ultimately from Los Angeles to Seattle. Although he was not performing during this time, Craig still had a finger on the pulse of the music business. Because much of his work involved entertaining clients and organizing parties, Craig’s budget included money to rent facilities and hire musicians. Craig hired several dance bands for these events and developed relationships with many of the musicians in the area. This was the start of what would be Craig’s longtime connection to the Seattle music scene.
After a musician friend suggested that Craig check out a jazz performance, Craig ventured to Tacoma and saw a group called Low Flying Cattle. It was his first experience with live jazz and he was immediately hooked. Two things stood out to him that evening. One was the level of musicianship of the players. The other was the communication that these musicians shared. They were able to clearly communicate with each other without so much as a glance. Craig was impressed: “It was like a well-orchestrated basketball game.”
Craig immersed himself in the jazz scene, attended as many performances as he could and got to know many of the musicians that were playing around town. He was committed to learning as much as he could about this exciting genre of music. As Craig moved from venue to venue checking out shows, he was dismayed that in many of the clubs, people weren’t really listening and that the bands were often relegated to background noise. When Craig attended a show at Jazz Alley, he was delighted that the audience was attentive and quiet. He saw what happens when “people really listen.”
Craig continued to give a lot of thought to the idea that jazz should be presented in a listening environment. At the time, he was living in a house off the Redmond-Fall City highway. One day, the thought occurred to him: “I have an empty basement and a piano.” He already had a large group of friends and associates that he knew were music lovers. Craig thought it would be fun to bring a bar and some cocktail tables into the basement and to “make a little jazz room.” He set up the space and threw an initial launch party, which was attended by over 200 people.
Craig knew he needed to form some kind of legal entity for zoning purposes, so he set up his home as a bed and breakfast. Working off of his nickname “Bake,” he called his new venture “Bake’s Place Bed and Breakfast.” He initially ran the jazz operation as a wine bar and took donations to pay for the music. When this wasn’t enough to cover costs, he turned his jazz room into a private club and sold memberships. The club had music every Tuesday night. The house performers were keyboardist Wayne Bell and blues siren Korla Wygal. The scene at Bake’s was very lively and Craig quickly built relationships with musicians all around the area. The music soon expanded to Friday and Saturday nights and food service was added. Laura came on board as the caterer and worked alongside Craig.
Eventually, Craig decided to expand his capacity and modified his patio to seat 200 people. The effort was fairly extensive; Craig added a stage with a full sound system and lighting. He also designed and helped build the frame for a large overhead tarp, which covered the entire patio. Bake’s Place successfully presented many summer concerts and BBQ’s.
A year after Craig and Laura solidified their business partnership, they became partners of another kind; they were married in June of 2005. Their union brought together two families as Craig and Laura each have three children. Bake’s Place is a family business in every sense of the word. Throughout the years at Providence Point, all of Craig and Laura’s children have helped out at the club or have worked there on a regular basis. When the club was remodeled, the whole family pitched in to move the fireplace, paint the walls, hang the new lights and transform what was already a beautiful room into an elegant and lush jazz supper club. In Craig’s words, “It is always important that family be an integral part of what we do.”
After several years of successfully presenting live music in the Northwest, Craig and Laura were keenly aware of the depth and wealth of talent in the region and began looking for an opportunity to expand the business and to present more artists. In the fall of 2011, that opportunity presented itself with an available space in downtown Bellevue. The new venue offered doubled seating capacity, the ability to increase hours of operation and a prime location in the bustling retail core of the city. Craig and Laura knew immediately that this was the ideal spot for taking their vision to the next level.
With stunning floor to ceiling windows, a richly appointed dining room and pristine acoustics Bake’s Bellevue is the premiere setting for live music. By expanding to six nights a week, Craig and Laura are able to present music for a broader variety of genres including R&B, Latin, indie acoustic, jazz and blues. The addition of Chef Chris Peterson enhances the experience further with a globally inspired menu that features small and large plate offerings. Guests can also enjoy summer dining in the spacious outdoor patio. All of these elements combine to create a rich blend of live music, food and atmosphere.
Craig and Laura Baker remain committed and focused. The goal is and always has been to create a comfortable getaway, where guests can unwind, let go of the chatter of the day and enjoy outstanding music, food and hospitality. In the newest incarnation, Craig and Laura continue to realize the vision, while also building on what they do best.