If you’re wondering where that sweet aroma is coming from in downtown Centralia, odds are it’s the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls at Dawn’s Delectables and Sandwich Shoppe on Tower Avenue.
A staple in the historic downtown, owner Dawn Lawson prepares every item from scratch, with local and organic ingredients, and without the use of preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, or GMOs. She also makes desserts that are vegan, gluten, and/or dairy free.
“I care about what’s in my food and what’s not in it,” she said.
But it’s not just the food that’s made from scratch. Lawson established the business on her own in 2012 while raising two sons, and is now debt free. Lawson prides herself on the store’s commitment to providing quality food, cleanliness, and customer service.
In fact, Lawson has done minimal advertising for the shop. Through the power of word of mouth, Dawn’s Delectables found a consistent customer base.
“My customers have been my biggest success,” said Lawson.
Using the slogan, “Come for dessert, stay for lunch,” Dawn’s Delectables is most known for their desserts, mainly their rave-reviewed carrot cake. In the catering and wholesale dessert business since 1998, Lawson has a passion for baking, and her storefront is filled with fresh-baked cakes, brownies, cookies, bread pudding, and other delicacies. The shop also sells local chocolates and an assortment of hand-scooped ice cream flavors, in addition to savory items, such as Kalama Falls Bread. At lunchtime, popular choices are clam chowder, chicken salad, and the California club.
Dawn’s offers a variety of services, too, such as special events, custom orders, and a box lunch service for people on the go. Lawson is currently expanding her storefront, making room for more seating and the addition of a meeting room that can host up to 35 people for birthday parties, business lunches, bridal showers, and other special events.
With the oven fired up and ready to go, the holiday selection includes their popular peppermint brownies, decorated butter cookies, red velvet cake, assorted cookie trays, and a Holiday Delight cake featuring a marshmallow buttercream with a peppermint ganache.
Although keeping up with the demands during 12-hour work days can be grueling, Lawson still finds time to give back to the community, and supports local organizations like the United Way and the Boys and Girls Club of Chehalis
“What goes in my door, comes out of my doors and into the community,” Lawson said.
Within her store, Lawson also gives back my mentoring her young staff, many of them first-time workers.
“I believe in utilizing the young kids who want to have a first job,” Lawson said.
Through Lawson’s mentorship, employees learn their first job skills, from customer service all the way to management and conflict resolution.
“She’s really into growing her employees,” said manager Eva Hickman. “She really wants to see you improve as a person. She’s more of a mom than a boss, and has helped me see a lot of my self-worth.”
Dawn also has some advice to share with other business owners.
“You have to stay true to what your vision is,” said Lawson. “You have to be committed to it to see it succeed, and you have to know what you are going to do. You have to have a plan, and you have to work it. You can’t waver when the going gets tough. It might take a month to reach the other side, but many quit before they see the other side.”
Although business usually slows down in September and October once children return to school and adults develop new routines, Lawson has yet to see a lull. In fact, she already has around 100 orders for holiday baking, and still has weeks to go.
And if there’s any true marker of the store’s success, it’s the repeat customers that come in and wait patiently during the lunchtime rush, knowing that excellent food and customer service is worth the wait.
“I want to focus on being a cornerstone in the community where people feel welcome,” said Lawson.
204 N Tower Avenue
Centralia, WA 98531