Painful good-bye: Bakery owner hangs up the aprons

During the last week of June, Kris’ Kitchen was so busy that the shelves couldn’t stay full and the staff couldn’t keep up.

After serving patrons in Lebanon for nearly nine years, the bakery closed its door July 1.

Owner Kris Krabill said she made the decision to  close because three of her grandchildren are ill. One has leukemia, one has a polio-like disease called flaccid myelitis, and one has an issue with his esophagus, she said.

“We just need to be freer to go support our family,” Krabill said.

Kris’ Kitchen started, literally, in her kitchen 24 years ago.

Krabill and her husband, Leonard, were raising four children and looking for a way to bring in a little extra income, she said. That’s when a friend asked if she could do some baking for Albany’s Saturday market.

She decided to give it a try, so she obtained a domestic kitchen license and started baking her way into the hearts – er, stomachs – of Linn County.

“The market just kept growing and growing, and getting bigger and bigger,” Krabill said.

After 15 years of establishing her baking prowess, the home kitchen space just couldn’t cut it anymore, so the family agreed to look at property with a bigger kitchen.

That’s when a friend urged Krabill and her husband to look into a commercial storefront that had housed Jacob’s Well Coffeehouse on Main Street. The couple soon realized it could work, despite the fact there was no kitchen.

“[Leonard] did all the cabinets,” she said. “We had to put in the kitchen and redo the front.”

For the next nine years, Krabill worked alongside friends and family at Kris’ Kitchen to prepare fresh-baked pies, croissants, apple dumplings, muffins, breads, cheesecakes, and the list goes on.

“We try to use more vintage-type recipes, old-fashioned things that people can’t get other places,” Krabill said.

She opts for the basic ingredients – flour, sugar, eggs – instead of using pre-packaged ingredients that are “quick and easy,” she said.

“A lot of our recipes are from my family, and other recipes we’ve come by and tweaked it so we could use it better.”

Pies were some of the most popular products sold at Kris’ Kitchen, she said. The sour cream raspberry pie was a recipe Krabill had to create from scratch when somebody requested it from her.

While she has always enjoyed baking, Krabel said it was her mom who modeled it for her.

“She loved baking and cooking, and she was very good at it,” she said.

One might imagine a young Krabill standing on a stool next to her mother, digging her fingers into a floury bowl and waiting to lick the spoon, but that’s not exactly how her childhood looked.

“I was a tomboy,” she said. “I was outside running around, bucking bales and playing. I really didn’t do much in the kitchen.”

But since it was in her blood, on her mom’s side, baking found its place in Krabill’s kitchen. She started helping in the kitchen at her high school, and then moved to France with Leonard, where she helped in the kitchen at a children’s home.

The rest of the story is history, or so it shall be now that Kris’ Kitchen is closed.

Krabill said she’s going to miss baking, but it’s her customers she’ll miss the most. In fact, the idea of saying goodbye to them made the decision to close extra hard.

“The children are sick; we know we need to cut back on time here so we have time to free up to be with them, but the customers are like our dear friends,” she said.

Krabill will finish out at the Albany Saturday Market in a month or two, and then it’ll be time to hang up her apron.

“It’s painful to say goodbye. It’s time and I know it’s the right thing to do; it’s just not real easy to do.”