At the beginning of 2020, Baker Rachael Sobczak was studying to become a dietitian and coordinating a school garden program. Now, just three years later, she’s running one of Skagit Valley’s most buzzed-about new bakeries.  

When the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a change in paths, Sobczak returned to her roots by starting a small-scale cottage bakery– and the idea took off quicker than she could have imagined. What began as a one-woman subscription bread service transformed into Water Tank Bakery, where Sobczak and her team whip up sourdough goodies ranging from bread and rolls to cookies and biscotti. 

Photo by Suzanne Rothmeyer

“My approach is to try to produce a product that is appealing in a way that is something almost like your grandmother made but … a more artisan version,” Sobczak says. “And just really, really trying to do my best to create the most optimal flavor profile.” 

In short, Sobczak’s baked goods aren’t just appealing to foodies. While all her products are made with sourdough, she uses a young levain starter, which is sweeter and less tangy than the kind found in San Francisco-style sourdough. Her offerings, which include honey oat sandwich bread and shortbread cookies, are also far more approachable than the word “artisan” might imply. 

The process of making bread begins at 6 a.m. and finishes at 11 or 12 that night, making each loaf a true labor of love. Moreover, the goods at Water Tank Bakery are about as local as it gets: Sobczak has a direct relationship with Skagit’s farmers and prefers to get her ingredients from the source. Impressively, even her flour is made from local wheat processed at Cairnspring Mills (located quite literally next door to Water Tank). 

Sobczak knew from the start that she wanted to use 100% PNW flour, even though local flour is more variable than the kind produced at larger-scale mills. Her prior baking experience meant she was already familiar with how to use local grains, and in addition, Cairnspring produces a wide range of flours– allowing for more diversity in Water Tank’s offerings too. 

“It’s one thing to know that there’s a mill here, to know that there’s wheat that’s grown here, but for the consumer to actually be able to say, ‘This is made from something that’s grown right down the street’ is really special,” Sobczak says. “The quality [of Cairnspring Mills flour] is so much superior to any other flour that I’ve used.” 

On the whole, this kind of collaboration has been key to Sobczak’s success. She feels immense gratitude for the support from the community and other businesses alike, whether it’s from Seattle-based Tom Douglas Restaurant Group (who donated their industrial oven to Water Tank Bakery) or Breadfarm (where Sobczak cut her teeth as a baker and worked for a decade).  

Photo by Rachael Sobczak

“It’s a great feeling to know that businesses can be mutually beneficial and supportive of each other,” Sobczak says. “We have a culture of supportiveness between the farmers in the region, the growers, the miller, and the people who come here.” 

Water Tank offers same-day purchases at their bakery’s walkup window as well as pre-order pickup at three locations. Most baked goods are mainstays on their weekly menu, but others rotate regularly, namely the seasonal cakes. (Hint: They will also be selling cookie boxes for the holiday season.) 

Diverse as they may be, each of Water Tank’s offerings have something in common: They’re delicious reflections of both the agriculture and community spirit in Skagit County. 

“I moved here because of the food,” Sobczak says. “I moved here to work at a bakery, and then to have the success of now having my own business– and the support of my previous employers and the whole community– has just been really, really sweet.” 11777 Water Tank Rd., Ste. C, Burlington, 360.757.2253,