Whether you like them sweet or savory or for breakfast or dinner, the waffle holds a special place in the hearts and stomachs of many people.

As of April 20, 2023, the space at 122 East Magnolia Street in downtown Bellingham will also be filled with waffles, when Sweet As Waffles opens at the corner of Railroad Avenue.

Owned and operated by Nate Brown and Graham Berkwitt, the brick-and-mortar waffle shop is the evolution of the Sweet As Waffles food trailer opened by the pair in May 2021, outside Stemma Brewing Company.

The menu offers a rotating assortment of tasty sweet and savory options, from fruit-and-cream-topped waffles to meat-and-cheese-filled waffle sandwiches.

“It’s like a blank canvas,” Berkwitt says of the iconic food. “Really, with waffles, there’s no rules.”

The Pocketed Path to Waffledom

Despite growing up on different sides of the country — Brown hails from Rhode Island while Berkwitt is from Issaquah, Washington — an interest in Bellingham brought both men to the area.

After the two met one evening in 2015, they began talking about the idea of opening a casual, walk-up waffle eatery that would fit well with Bellingham’s food culture and fun vibe.

After opening in a food trailer outside Bellingham’s Stemma Brewing Company in 2021, the business is opening its first brick and mortar location on April 20 at 122 E. Magnolia Street. Photo courtesy Sweet As Waffles

Brown grew up going to East Coast ski resorts and also worked in an ice cream shop — both places where the smell of waffles wafted freely. 

“I feel like waffles are just one of those trigger smells that makes you crave it, and gives you a little sense of happiness,” he says.

Before putting any effort into their plans, the two embarked upon long-term solo travel adventures. Brown vagabonded through New Zealand and Indonesia, while Berkwitt moved to South Africa, and then backpacked through China.

By 2017, both men were back in Bellingham working food industry jobs.  Brown resumed his studies at Western Washington University while Berkwitt attended Bellingham Technical College. They longed to make their waffle dreams a reality, and by 2018 had begun their plan.

Unable to find a small, affordable storefront downtown, the two decided to operate a small food trailer. Finding one in Eugene, Oregon with basic walls, windows, and not much else, the two hauled it home on a 22-hour journey involving MacGyvered trailer lighting, 30 mph speeds, and a bout of food poisoning. They arrived back in Bellingham just hours before having to take midterms.

The Sweet As Waffles Ski to Sea team celebrates their completion of the race in 2022. Team members are required to wear waffle costumes as they compete. Photo courtesy Sweet As Waffles

Over the next several years, the two men spent countless hours learning how to mold the trailer to their vision, while also committing a fair share of mistakes in trying to meet the state’s strict permitting standards for food trucks.

“Building a homemade trailer, especially in the food industry, was no easy task,” says Berkwitt.

Despite working minimum wage jobs while also finishing school, the pair eventually completed their waffle trailer on a college student’s budget. Next move? Where to park it.

Originally, the Sweet As Waffles food trailer was to be placed in the outdoor space between the Bellingham YMCA and the Up and Up Tavern on North State Street, creating a “waffle garden” of sorts. But the Up and Up’s closure threw those plans askew, and the pair couldn’t afford to operate the entirety of the former tavern’s space when it was offered to them.

The fun food trailer also features “Tiny Trailer Concerts,” a nod to NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concerts.” Musicians who show up to perform three or more songs receive a free waffle. Photo courtesy Sweet As Waffles

Finally, a Mount Baker ski instructor friend of Brown’s suggested opening outside of Stemma. By the spring of 2021, they finally had a home to bring waffles to the masses.

“It was a roller coaster, for sure,” Berkwitt says of the whole process.

Moving on Up

Cultivating a social media following as the duo built their trailer helped initial business once they finally opened, and business grew from there based mainly on word-of-mouth recommendations.

Sweet As Waffles frequently rotates its waffle menu with seasonal and weekly specialties, and also has a build-your-own option. They also use the waffle’s culinary versatility to collaborate with numerous local food producers and restaurants on ingredients. That includes Funky’s Hot Sauce Factory, which has its “Liquid Sunshine” variety paired with many waffles as a side sauce option.  

Among the eatery’s most popular option is its “Canadian Quesadilla” — featuring melted cheeses, pesto cream cheese, maple-cayenne candied bacon and arugula nestled between two waffles. Other savory ideas include pizza toppings and even a cheeseburger-based waffle, complete with pickle on top.

Sweet As Waffles owners Graham Berkwitt and Nate Brown have taken photos with their waffle costume in numerous places. That includes while traveling, as this image of a young Ecuadorian boy attests. Photo courtesy Sweet As Waffles

Another staple of the business has been their “Tiny Trailer Concerts,” a fun idea inspired by National Public Radio’s “Tiny Desk Concerts.” For musicians willing to perform a minimum of three songs in front of the trailer, each is awarded a free waffle and a mention on the Sweet As Waffles website.

Then there is the waffle costume — a soft, wearable image of a butter-and-syrup-laden waffle. Brown bought it online for cheap after a roommate found it shortly before they opened.

It has appeared widely on their social media pages in numerous settings, including internationally: while on a month-long trip to Ecuador, the two men found themselves riding horses in the mountains with a local family. One of the family’s boys agreed to wear and pose in the costume for a few dollars, and a large print of the image now graces the walls of their business.

Sweet As Waffles also has a Ski to Sea team comprised of both employees and non-employees. Team members are required to wear waffle costumes as they compete in the annual relay race.

Looking Ahead

Expanding Sweet As Waffles was always the duo’s plan, whether it was catering, a second trailer, or a brick and mortar operation.

Having fulfilled the first item (yes, you can wear waffle costumes at your wedding), their attention moved last year to finding a non-trailered locale.  After months of browsing local real estate listings, the location at the corner of East Magnolia and Railroad became available. The duo took the leap.

Sweet As Waffles is the place to go for an assortment of sweet and savory takes on the classic breakfast food. Photo courtesy Sweet As Waffles

“This is a really good location,” says Brown. “It’s a really great size for us.”

While the pair doesn’t know how long the waffle-based portion of their lives will continue, they say they’re more than happy to contribute a unique legacy to the growing city they regard as their true home.

“We want to continue to grow the culture of Bellingham,” Brown says. “We just want to create this fun experience, and add to the weirdness of the city.”

Sweet As Waffles is located at 122 E. Magnolia Street in downtown Bellingham.

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