What's a mazurka?
To the Polish, it's a dance. But in Seattle, the latte center of the world, a mazurka is a popular Northwest cookie sold at many area espresso carts.
"We thought it would be a funny name for a cookie," said Jessica Reisman, the cookie's creator.
Reisman owns McGraw Street Bakery in Queen Anne, which makes and sells the cookies. Adapted from an old Polish recipe, the mazurka bars come in five flavors - apricot, raspberry, peanut butter/chocolate, blueberry and espresso. Reisman will add a new flavor - apple cinnamon - in September.
The bakery is a "neighborhood place," she said, with the same people coming in all the time. It has an old, smoke-blackened brick oven that dates back to the 1920s, and 21 employees who work around it.
Reisman also owns a wholesale business run from the bakery, called Homespun, which distributes the mazurka bars. The bars have taken off, selling at many grocery stores and espresso stands around Seattle.
Reisman is proud: "The mazurka bars are kind of like my baby."
"They have all-natural ingredients," Reisman said. "Everything is made from scratch. They're just a good, solid cookie."
Reisman started small in the bakery business. In 1983, she began baking cookies in her apartment. She made a few batches each week and sold them door-to-door. Her first accounts were a small grocery store in Queen Anne and a few University of Washington
As the cookies grew in popularity, Reisman moved into larger spaces. She rented a small kitchen in Ballard for a year.
Then, in 1984, she rented space in McGraw Street Bakery. She became a partner and ran the bakery with the two other owners for nearly five years.
In 1989, she became the sole owner, when the others decided to pursue different careers.
"All this really happened haphazardly," Reisman said. "I never set out with a business plan. And I never thought of owning a business, let alone two."
But Reisman does come from a long line of food people.
"I had a grandmother who ran a hotel kitchen in New York," said Reisman, who has Polish and Jewish ancestors. "My sister is in the food business. And my whole family loves to eat."
"I came from a real eating background," she said. "It gets in your blood." she said.
In the past few years, both businesses - the bakery and the wholesale business - have grown.
In the beginning, Reisman started with two flavors, apricot and raspberry, and produced fewer than 300 cookies a week.
Now, Reisman bakes 3,000 to 5,000 mazurkas a week, besides the other bakery products. She has about 75 accounts, including some Nordstrom espresso carts, QFC and Thriftway in Queen Anne. She also ships to some natural-food stores in Issaquah.
"It's a profitable business," Reisman said.
Now, Reisman is considering expanding. She plans to increase her Seattle accounts, while looking for ways to go national.
"I'm definitely trying to grow the business," she said. "But there's a lot more competition."
Reisman hopes to expand by reducing the cookie size and price. Now, the cookies are 2-by-3-inch squares, with a retail price of $1 to $1.50 .
At the bakery, the cost is only 95 cents.
"People want something a little more homier and earthy," Reisman said. "I think it's gonna spread. As long as there are espresso carts."