Downtown Salem bake shop rebuilding after window smashed in bar fight

Bright pinks and pastels with cases full of decadent dessert cups and a cheerful wave from one of the owners have caught the eye of many passersby and drawn a supportive crowd of regulars to downtown’s newer bakery, Sewell Sweets.

Now, owners Chad and Cat Sewell are leaning on that support to reopen after a bar fight left their shop on Northeast Liberty Street without a front window. 

The store is a brick-and-mortar shop run by husband and wife that opened nine months ago and is now facing financial strain from the damage and lost business. 

On Saturday, Aug. 19, a brawl broke out just before midnight at a downtown bar that sent two people crashing through the Sewell storefront window at 155 Liberty St. N.E.

The owners got a call from Salem Police soon after the crash and were at the store shortly after midnight. 

By the time they arrived, the police and people in the fight were gone, but the Sewells were left to fend off a crowd of drunk people the bar had kicked out. People were threatening to crawl in through the broken glass and steal their tables, chairs and TV monitors. 

“It was terrifying,” said Cat. “We were left vulnerable in the aftermath.”

The couple waited at the store until 5 a.m. Sunday, when someone was able to come in and board up the broken window. They are currently waiting on the police report to learn more about the events of the fight. 

Salem police did not respond to an email from Salem Reporter Wednesday asking for more information about the fight. 

Boarded up window and closed off seating area at Sewell Sweets storefront on 155 Liberty St. N.E. (Natalie Sharp/Salem Reporter)
Boarded up window and closed off seating area at Sewell Sweets storefront on 155 Liberty St. N.E. (Natalie Sharp/Salem Reporter)

The Sewells opened the storefront in November 2022, after signing the lease in August and doing most of the construction themselves. The shop was a former Subway and as an homage to that, the first cake they made was a realistic Subway sandwich. 

The bakery makes all goods fresh with a variety of options from baby cakes, tarts, dessert cups, cookies, and espresso drinks, to signature or custom cakes. They specialize in wedding cakes. 

They recently won the Editor’s Choice, Best Cake award in Oregon Bride Magazine Best of 2023 Winners.

Cat Sewell said she has always wanted to open a bakery.

 “It has been my dream since I was 13,” she said.

Cat started Sewell Sweets 10 years ago operating it solely out of commercial kitchens, but she has been waiting for the right time and place to open a storefront shop. 

Originally from California, the couple moved to Oregon around 15 years ago. They have lived in a few places around the state to figure out where would be the best area to open their shop. The couple landed on Salem for its mom-and-pop feel and community-driven downtown area. 

They moved to southeast Salem with their four kids in 2020 and waited until a downtown storefront became available. 

Since opening the shop, Cat said the community response has been amazing. The team of Chad, Cat and two part-time employees all make an effort to wave at every person who walks past the storefront.

Cat said customers have told her they look forward to their wave every day on their walk to work. 

Two weeks ago one of their Sunday regulars asked the Sewells to help him propose to his girlfriend. They made a custom “Will You Marry Me?” cake and presented it to her when they arrived at the bakery while the boyfriend knelt behind her with a ring. 

Chad and Cat said it has been so special to be a part of big life moments like that one and have loved being a place of joy in the community. 

Chad quit his full-time job in pest control in February 2023 to start working full-time at the bakery, which is now the family’s sole source of income. 

With the smashed window, there is now a heavy financial burden on the couple.

Chad was on the phone with contractors all of Wednesday trying to get a quote for the damages but had yet to hear anything definitive. They said that the shattered glass also made a large gouge on the floor and damaged all of their indoor tables and chairs, making them unusable. 

The store was closed on Sunday to clean up the mess and make everything safe and operational, costing them one of their busiest days of business. The fight also destroyed all of the fresh baked goods that were prepped on Saturday.

The two were especially disappointed about the particular window that was smashed as it was on the corner and the only one that didn’t have glare. Now it’s much harder for customers to “see all the bright colors and goods,” said Cat. 

Boarded up window outside the storefront of Sewell Sweets on 115 Liberty St. N.E. (Natalie Sharp/Salem Reporter)

On Tuesday night the couple started a GoFundMe to try and help keep doors open while they get repairs done. They both said this was a very hard decision, “We had to swallow our pride,” said Chad.

They normally would not accept this kind of support, but Cat said in an emergency, you have to ask for help.  

Along with the smashed window, the couple also said they have received a lot of comments recently online and in person that people don’t feel safe coming downtown as much anymore. With this recent damage to their store, they don’t want to be associated with the idea that downtown isn’t safe. They said this has just made it harder to calm those fears in people. 

Chad said they moved to Salem because they loved the downtown area and they don’t want to see it go away. 

Within the first day of setting up the GoFundMe, over $3,000 had been donated to help with the repairs. 

“We greatly appreciate all the support,” said Cat. They are hoping to get repairs done as soon as possible.

The store remains open as they await repairs. Sewell Sweets’ hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Sunday.

Case with dessert cups and a GoFundMe sign at Sewell Sweets storefront shop in downtown Salem (Natalie Sharp/Salem Reporter)

Contact reporter Natalie Sharp: [email protected] or 503-522-6493.

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Natalie Sharp is an Oregon State University student working as a reporter for Salem Reporter in summer 2023. She is part of the Snowden internship program at the University of Oregon's School of Communication and Journalism.