Growing up, it was milk and pastries. Over time, it was tea and pastries. These days, it’s typically coffee and pastries.
Now that siblings Nina Lapin, Dina Nikulin and Roman Chebotarev own and operate International Coffee & Bakery together, they offer it all — including Mom’s famous pastries, breads and cakes they have been eating their whole lives. Family recipes are served alongside an array of other treats and menu items with roots in Russia and eastern Europe.
International Coffee & Bakery opened in August in the Greenacres Shopping Center, part of a reimagining of the family’s Malinka Euro Market and Bakery that was located three doors down the plaza. Why tweak the business model?
“Everybody asked, ‘Do you have coffee, do you have coffee?’” Nina summarized.
Added Dina: “We used to have people that would come in and get baked stuff from us, and then they would go to the bar and drink coffee at the bar, and so that’s why we decided to add the coffee shop.”
And that’s where brother Roman entered the equation. Roman recently finished four years of business studies at Eastern Washington University.
“I’ve always wanted a coffee shop,” he said, and his work launching this newest facet of the business has been a hit with customers and family alike.
“We’ve got everybody hooked now,” Dina said. “Mom comes in here, ‘Roman, make me my coffee!’”
Mom still does some of the baking, and Nina’s recipes are also featured. The focus is tried-and-true recipes with no additives that the family has enjoyed for years. Oh, and about that family…
“Our parents have 15 kids — no twins, one mother and father,” Nina said. “I’m No. 6.”
If you’re keeping track at home, Dina is No. 12 and Roman is No. 14. The family has lived in the Spokane area for 16 years, and is heavily invested in the Greenacres Shopping Center. Nina owns and operates Greenacres Cleaners next door to the bakery. Dina and her husband own Greenacres Cabinets a couple doors further down.
Roman’s focus is on the coffee shop. He would love to see the business eventually develop more of a café vibe, with a second location part of his long-term vision.
The bakery and market are truly what put the “International” in the name of this coffee shop. Whether it’s the pastries and breads, candy and cookies or meats and cheeses, the recipes and the products typically hail from overseas. Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Germany — to name just a few of the many countries listed during a recent tour of the offerings.
Even the Malinka name, which is still used in connection with the bakery and market, is a Russian word meaning “raspberry.”
One of the most popular international products are the teas, with options that cross the map.
Two Russian family favorites are coming to the menu soon: Borscht soup and Chebureki, a deep-fried turnover that is “kind of like a Russian empanada,” Dina said.
While many customers have Russian or European roots, Nina said she especially loves to help people experience something new. This has led to a “try before you buy” philosophy to encourage shoppers to take a chance.
“When we give people a sample, even with the sausage or something from the food section, they will buy,” she said. “And they come back, of course.”
When the business moved into the new space in August, it allowed International Coffee & Bakery to combine forces with Malinka, and the layout of the shop followed suit. The entry portion of the deep store looks and feels like a coffee shop, with seating for conversations with friends or working independently on a laptop. The back portion of the space showcases favorite baked goods and European market items that Malinka customers have come to love.
THE TOP PICK
There are several standouts, the siblings said, but perhaps the most popular treats are the Peaches, which look like fruit-shaped pastries but are essentially cookies filled with dulce de leche cream.
On the espresso side, the most popular pick is the white chocolate mocha, starting with the people who unlock the doors in the morning.
“My mom likes it, I like it, she likes it,” Dina said, pointing to her sister.
“And half of our customers like it, too,” Roman jumped in.
If you want to customize your own drink, the house-made pumpkin spice and caramel syrups are go-to choices for regular customers.
THE CULT FAVORITE
While it’s more of a summer obsession, Roman said the shop’s Lithuanian ice cream has an extremely loyal following.
“It’s the legit ice cream from Europe,” he said.
With more of a cream-like flavor emphasis, “it tastes completely different,” Nina said.
Family and non-family employees keep the business running, and partners like DOMA coffee and Rishi tea attract customers with their high-quality reputations.
THE TIME WHEN …
One of the siblings’ favorite aspects of the new layout is the space for community gatherings. Over the holiday season, they had two events in particular that packed the shop: cookie decorating and a Russian Christmas party (fun fact: Russian Santa doesn’t have to wear red; this one looked smooth in an icy blue suit).
In the future, the siblings have plans for the space to continue to be used for community gatherings, with ideas ranging from sewing classes to setting up a projector to show cartoons.
International Coffee & Bakery
18209 E. Appleway Ave., Spokane Valley
@international_coffee_bakery on Facebook and Instagram
While you’re here, would you do me a favor?
If you enjoy articles like this one, join the CoffeeJosh mailing list. It’s hurry-free, spam-free and also free … free. As a thanks, I’ll send you a PDF — you guessed it, free — that has 10 of the best coffee shop orders in the Spokane area. (All 10 are drinks and treats local coffee shop owners make for themselves. In this case, expect to pay for your order and feel like it was totally worth it.)