A popular “Made in Oregon” treat — handmade McTavish shortbread — is now a part of the greater Camas community.
Entrepreneurs Karen and Peter Wood, of Camas, purchased the 23-year-old Portland-based business from founders Bill and Denise Pratt this summer.
“Peter and Karen will inject a new energy and bring new ideas to McTavish, while maintaining the family-owned approach that our employees and customers cherish,” Denise Pratt says.
The Woods have added an LLC to the well-known McTavish Shortbread company name, but say they aren’t planning to make any big changes to the buttery, traditional shortbreads, now sold in 37 states and widely available in the Portland/Vancouver metro area.
“It’s been fun telling our friends,” Karen says. “People recognize the brand.”
The handcrafted shortbread, available in a variety of flavors including traditional, blueberry, chocolate chip, hazelnut, lavender and lemon, is sold at grocery stores like Fred Meyers, New Seasons, Whole Foods and QFC, at the Made in Oregon stores, and at coffee shops and gift stores throughout the country.
One of the things the Woods say they love about the company is its connection to the local area — many of the ingredients used to make the shortbreads are locally sourced, from the local creamery butter and Oregon grown hazelnuts to the non-GMO grain from Portland-based Shepherd’s Grain.
The business has always reached out to the local community when hiring, too. Tucked into an understated building off Northeast Glisan Street in East Portland, the shortbread company is right across the road from the Portland-based Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), and the Woods say many of their best employees have come through IRCO’s doors into the McTavish bakery, drawn by the company’s reputation as a good place to work and the bakery’s four-day shifts, which allow for more time for family outings and caring for young children — something the Woods, parents of two school-aged boys, are attuned to.
“We have two boys at home. Connor is 15 and Evan is 12 … so the hours are attractive,” Karen says. “The staff is amazing and dedicated to producing a high-quality, great-tasting product, which is wonderful. There are currently 24 employees, however, we are adding staff as our busy season ramps up.”
The little bakery may seem tiny, Karen says, but the output at McTavish Shortbread, LLC, is impressive. The shortbread minis are shaped by a machine, but all of the larger cookies are still cut by hand and dipped into various chocolates by hand.
“Even though our bakery seems small, we are producing 64,800 minis and 300 dozen hand-cut cookies a day,” Karen says.
The Woods moved to Southwest Washington from Tennessee in 2006, after Peter took a management position with Maxcess International, a pressed fiber and molded pulp product manufacturer located off Southeast Eighth Avenue in Camas. Since then, the family has been an active part of the Camas community. The couple’s sons attend Camas public schools and Karen, a former freelance writer and editor, says she’s always enjoyed volunteering at both Lacamas Heights Elementary and Liberty Middle School. She was a member of the Camas Moms Club and both parents are involved in their sons’ athletic events, including soccer and cross country.
As his sons grew older, Peter says he wanted to spend less time traveling for business and more time around his family. The idea of running their own company was something that had always appealed to the Woods.
“We had always had a dream of owning our own business,” Peter says. “It was something we’d talked about for a while.”
The couple’s quest to find the perfect company led them straight to McTavish Shortbread — the location meant they could stay in Camas and not commute too far, the company had a great reputation and the product was something they could take pride in producing. Plus, says Karen, their boys were pretty thrilled about mom and dad owning a cookie company.
“They love it,” Karen says. “And they’ll probably be running the booth at the Highland Games this year.”
Of the new venture, the Woods say they’re still on a pretty steep learning curve — trying to get to know their new employees and hire more for the upcoming holiday season — but that they are already enjoying their new way of life.
“We feel it’s the perfect business for us because it is a solid, profitable business, yet there is still room to grow and improve,” Karen says. “And the product itself is great. Everyone knows the brand. The other day I took my dog to the vet and I heard her asking, ‘Did she bring cookies?’ And a lot of our friends know the name. They all have their favorites.”
The Woods say they are dedicated to producing the same quality products people throughout the Pacific Northwest — and now the rest of the country — have come to love over the past two decades.
“We are very excited to join the McTavish team,” Peter says. “McTavish is a strong company, making an excellent product, and we are committed to continuing that excellence.”
For more information about McTavish Shortbread, LLC, visit www.mctavishshortbread.com