Livermore residents Aimee and Bryan Wingen are honoring their late daughter's memory with their brand-new bakery that opened in downtown last week.
Wingen Bakery -- which specializes in sourdough breads, sandwiches and pastries -- was created and developed during a difficult time for the husband-and-wife team. The couple initially launched in 2020 as a cottage bakery from their home so they could be full-time caretakers to their infant daughter, Waylynn, who had been diagnosed with a terminal genetic disorder called Zellweger syndrome.
Their business started to grow quickly as word spread throughout the city about Aimee's specialty sourdough loaves and Waylynn's condition. The community rallied around the family in support.
When Waylynn died last August at 8 months old, the Wingens took a brief hiatus from baking before joining the Livermore Farmers Market, where they consistently sold out of their baked goods each week, Aimee told the Weekly.
Both Aimee and Bryan are food industry veterans. Aimee, who is a Livermore native, was formerly a sous chef at Range Life -- also located in Livermore -- and prior to that, a pastry chef at Homestead in Oakland.
Bryan, who landed in the Bay Area by way of Denver, was the general manager at Homeroom Mac + Cheese in Oakland for five years and later a bartender at Range Life.
While starting the bakery was initially a decision that allowed them to stay at home with their daughter, the couple chose to continue building the business in her honor after her death to give back to the community that supported them in their time of need.
Located at 50 S Livermore Ave., the Wingens' new storefront features indoor and outdoor seating with wooden tables and chairs hand-crafted by Bryan and a family friend. The indoor dining space is named the Waylynn Room and has a children's play area with a toy kitchen set and books that were donated by community members.
Hand-drawn pictures hang in frames on one of the walls with notes of encouragement and support for the Wingen family as well as dedications to Waylynn.
"We just wanted to create a space for her. She's not physically with us anymore but we wanted to dedicate this space to her where people can come and gather," Aimee said.
The renovation process was not extensive as the former Casse-Croute Bakery was the previous occupant before shuttering its doors. "It was pretty cool to find a spot that was already a bakery that had the set up," Aimee said, adding that they had scouted other potential locations that would have required a lot more work to transform.
She said they were also lucky to not have experienced many setbacks related to the pandemic as they began the process of remodeling earlier this year when restrictions were already beginning to loosen. Last year, during their time as a cottage bakery, Aimee said the pandemic actually worked in their favor.
"If anything, the pandemic helped us because our business started out of our home and cottage bakeries had blown up," she said. "We had a big baker's rack out on our front porch and people could just come and grab their loaf and not even have to interact with anyone, so I think that is a factor in why we were so successful and gained such a following."
While remodeling the bakery, she said they experienced some delays with equipment and supplies arriving behind schedule but ultimately timing worked out for them as their opening has closely coincided with the reopening of businesses statewide.
Before welcoming the public, Wingen Bakery partnered with Livermore Pride earlier this month to host a "Pride Prom-ish" social for LGBTQ+ youth and the broader community. Attendees were invited to have their photos taken in a decorated area set up inside of the bakery, purchase refreshments and socialize.
"We think it's really cool that stuff like this is happening in Livermore and the city is changing for, what we think, is the better," Aimee said, adding that eventually she would like to host more events like bread-making classes and partnering with other local businesses.
The Wingens launched another initiative in honor of their daughter in December called "Way Day," which was a virtual 5K Fun Run/Walk.
In addition to celebrating Waylynn's life, the event raised nearly $7,000 for the Taylor Family Foundation, a local nonprofit that serves children living with life-threatening and chronic illnesses, developmental disabilities and at-risk youth through therapeutic programs and support. Aimee said that she and her husband plan to continue and grow the event annually.