Meet the Member – Halletts Market & Cafe

December 14, 2022

Hallett’s Market & Café is going strong after 44 years in business. Not many retailers can say they served the first espressos in all of Spokane Valley, sold peanut butter crunch to the very first Starbucks Coffee House in Seattle, or have huckleberry products (huckleberry chocolates, bars, jam, and syrup) consistently maintain their status as #1 best-sellers.

Four Businesses In One

Hallett’s has developed four different market segments in its business. First, they have a deli that serves lunch items to the public. Next, they have a well-established gift basket business for consumers and businesses. They also offer catering items such as meat & cheese plates and sandwich plates for office meetings, parties, and family gatherings. And finally, they have a lovely gourmet market with sweet and savory items you won’t easily find anywhere else.

Any of these facets could be a stand-alone business on its own, but Cindy Hallett, the owner of Hallett’s Market & Café, has brilliantly figured out how to make all four of these segments support each other and synergistically make her business successful.

While the deli counter does the most volume, the gift basket business is the most profitable.

They make everything for their deli except the bread (which comes from Alpine Bakery) and meat items. Cindy often begins work at 5 AM, busily preparing their daily salads and soups.

A History of Hallett’s

Hallett’s has evolved a lot from its beginnings. Their business is an example of starting one way, pivoting another, and slowly changing into where they are today.

In 1978, Cindy, her husband, and her brother-in-law started a strawberry and raspberry farm in Otis Orchards. The farm was a part-time affair. Since the farm was seasonal, they started shipping Washington apples and pears to consumers during the fall months. Then, as Cindy stated, “so people wouldn’t forget about us, we started making candy for the Holidays and Valentine’s Day”. Eventually, they sold the farm and moved their operation to Holiday Hills in Liberty Lake. (Old-timers may remember a chair lift and ski hill at Holiday Hills. The resort didn’t last long due to the lack of snow.)

When the business left Liberty Lake for Spokane Valley, they split the company between the two families. Cindy and her husband kept the gift basket side, and brother-in-law Cy and his wife, Jennifer, acquired the candy-making side of the business, now known as Hallett’s Chocolates.

The Covid period was challenging for Hallett’s, but Cindy thinks they fared better than many food-related businesses due to her solid customer base. First, they had to close off their indoor eating space. So all of their deli business became takeout only. Plus, they offered curbside delivery. Cindy said to help make ends meet uniquely, “We also assisted a senior program to help feed seniors during that time, which kept us busy. So many retirement centers had to shut down their kitchens, so we filled a real need in the community.”

Overcoming Obstacles

Currently, Hallett’s main issues are supply shortages and rising food costs. During Covid, they had trouble sourcing wicker baskets. Now turkey meat is difficult to find consistently.

Lately, Cindy has had to deal with the wholesale cost of roast beef going up by $7.00 per pound. And a 3-pack of romaine lettuce that used to cost $4.00 is now $8-$9 each. Despite these increased costs, Hallett’s does their best not to increase its deli prices.

Cindy is talented at thinking outside the box, or, as you will see, “outside the basket.” She recently devised a solution to the high cost of wicker baskets. For customers who want their gift packs shipped, their team is now packing gourmet items with pretty shredded paper in a USPS closable shipping box. The recipient is saving money and is wowed by a beautiful presentation upon opening the package. 

What Makes Hallett’s Unique

As Cindy puts it, “We really focus on the product. I mean, we want them to look fantastic, but it’s really about excellent products. You’re not going to get three ounces of processed cheese that you can bounce off the wall. In our gift packs, for example, you’ll get fresh Tillamook all-natural cheese. You will see a whole all-beef sausage. So I would say our customers notice the difference in quantity and quality. Also, most of our gourmet goodies are local, unique items.”

What Cindy Hallett enjoys most about her business are the creative expression and the people, both customers and long-time employees. One of her favorite customers just turned 92 and could no longer drive. So her employees have been delivering her lunch meal! Some employees have worked for Hallett’s for 10, 12, and even 20 years. Cindy exclaimed, “We have total support here. It’s one big family!”

See all the delicious things Hallett’s has to offer HERE


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