Gilham Mercantile and Bakery Opens Doors in McKenna

By Daniel Warn / dan@yelmonline.com
Posted 2/1/22

There’s a new place in McKenna to gather baked goods like cakes and cookies or general-store items like pickles and spice rubs.

Ikela Gilham and her mother opened the Gilham Mercantile & …

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Gilham Mercantile and Bakery Opens Doors in McKenna

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There’s a new place in McKenna to gather baked goods like cakes and cookies or general-store items like pickles and spice rubs.

Ikela Gilham and her mother opened the Gilham Mercantile & Bakery on Wednesday, Jan. 19, at 34916 State Route 507 S. in McKenna.

“Business has been really steady (with) people coming in and a neighborhood feel,” Gilham said. “It’s really awesome.”

A bakery display case and counter separates the work area from the customer lobby, while general goods line the lobby’s perimeter in neat displays.

When the Nisqually Valley News caught up with Gilham last week, she and her mother Liz were bustling around the work area preparing cakes and cinnamon rolls.

The store, which Gilham hopes matches McKenna’s homey feel, wasn’t always mercantile-ready.

“We started (renovating) here in March, so it took about 10 months for us to get up and running,” Gilham said. “The last place that was here was an antique shop, so it was nothing like this. We had to really start everyone from the bottom and everything’s brand new, but it was definitely worth it.”

Gilham said the store’s “mercantile” name harkens back to “an old-school corner store, convenience store, where you could pick up” things like pickles, spice blends, barbecue sauces or dressings.

“My mom does some spices and stuff on Amazon, so that’s why we have some spices and rubs and all that stuff along the walls and then we have the baking things along the walkway,” Gilham said.

She said they made sure to put “bakery” in the name because Gilham wants the store to be known in the community as the place that makes “all the sweet treats.”

Gilham takes lead on all the baking. Cupcakes, triple layer cakes, double-layer cakes, cheese cakes, cookies, fudge, muffins, homemade biscuits and quick breads line out the store’s menu of baked goods.

“I love to bake,” Gilham said. “My grandma, she instilled it in us. … It just really grew on me. And my mom, she loves to cook. She makes all the gravy and the soups. Everything is homemade from scratch.”



Many of the recipes were handed down from Gilham’s great-great-grandmother. Among them are recipes for the bakery’s cinnamon rolls, biscuits, fudge, cookies and jam, which are all made in-house.

The business features a consistent menu, but there is a special menu with four or five breakfast and lunch specials that change daily. They are posted on the “Gilham Mercantile & Bakery” Facebook page.

“We’re also going to be adding to our menu,” Gilham said. “We’ve got some sugar-free options, gluten-free options and keto-friendly diet (options) coming.”

The store also offers Italian sodas and flavored iced coffee, though it does not serve espresso.

Gilham currently lives in Federal Way, but she said she plans to relocate to the area soon.

For now, she drives between one and two and a half hours, depending on traffic, to make it to work each day.

She heard about the location from her daughter’s father, who lives in Yelm.

Gilham said McKenna is the perfect place to set up shop.

“We love the feel,” Gilham said. “We’ve already had people come in and come back. It feels like … home, like how we’re trying to feel.”

The Gilham Mercantile & Bakery is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

The store may close earlier because everything is made fresh daily, so when the products sell out, the store will close early to prepare for the next day’s offerings.

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