Despite her reservations, Kathryne Paz’s friends are aiding the habitual helper in her own time of need.
They are asking the community for donations to ensure the doors to Galaxy Chocolates stay open and the chocolatier can keep at her passion. The longtime owner of one of Sultan’s most well known establishments is struggling to make basic monthly payments while balancing health conditions, which leave her with intense pain after standing for more than a minute.
Sultan resident Michele Cotterill had been patronizing the business for years and started a Bible study with her friend Amie Beisel in fall 2016. The three women slowly grew their friendship during those weekly visits.
“She is a very generous person, she is quiet about it though,” Cotterill said. “I think she just has a really big heart in there, and she just really seems to love people. I know that it has been hard for her to ask for help because I think she is a very independent person.”
The 53-year-old Gold Bar resident became a chocolatier by chance, although she has always been a baker. She taught herself how to decorate cakes; Paz still makes decadent designs for custom orders.
One holiday season her cousin and aunt tried out recipes for creating chocolates. She was instantly enamored. While raising her oldest child, who would take four-hour naps as a baby, the mother of two found time to expand on her sweets-making skills.
“You can only get the house so clean, and I am not the type of person to sit around and watch soap operas,” she said.
Paz started with the cheapest store-bought confection she could find, Almond Bark, and advanced to Wilton and then Guittard candy melts. She eventually taught herself how to temper chocolate, which is a 1 1/2-hour process, one she is constantly engaged in throughout the day.
She still uses her copy of the Country Store Candy Cookbook. Paz aims to learn something new at least once a month, and consistently creates new recipes. She released a new pineapple, dark chocolate truffle in October.
“Oh my ganache, it’s good,” she said.
In 2004, she bought the Celestial Coffeehouse in Startup, where Doug’s RV is located right off U.S. Highway 2. For a while she was producing her chocolates there. About seven years ago, she took over the new space at 501 Main St. in Sultan; her new kitchen space is larger than the previous storefront — more room to mess up in, she says.
Paz spends about 14-17 hours a day at her Sultan-based business. Often she is in the kitchen concocting batches from her hundreds of recipes, or filling orders for cinnamon rolls, brownies, pies, cheesecakes and cookies. The holiday season is her busiest.
For more than a dozen years, Paz’s passion has slowly spread throughout the community. She regularly gifts chocolates to organizations, creates baskets full of her candies that she raffles off for needy families, and rents out space for local events.
U.S. Rep. Suzanne DelBene has been hosted in the store and Mayor John Seehuus is carrying on the weekly Coffee with the Mayor gatherings there; it’s where Sultan Police Chief Steve McDonald also holds monthly Coffee with the Chief meetings.
For a while the recently formed Sky Valley Youth Coalition was meeting in her commons area and bonding while baking as a group in her kitchen. Near the end of November, she can be found making dozens of the desserts consumed during the annual Sultan Harvest. This year, with minimal help, she put together 70 pies for the event. Some of the costs she covers herself.
Things took a turn this summer. For years, Paz has been coping with chronic pain, which is the result of built up scar tissue from nine herniated discs. She regularly experiences shooting spasms, and is unable to be as productive as she prefers some days.
Therapy and surgery may help, but she is putting off the procedures to make sure her store survives. Finally, she realized it was time to ask for some assistance.
“I have always been a giver, so it’s hard to become a receiver,” she said.
Paz said she will have to give a longtime, out-of-town customer a “darn big hug” the next time she sees him for the $350 he left through the GoFundMe page started by Cotterill and Biesel. About a month ago, she was far behind on her utility bill and was at risk of having her electricity shutoff. Residents contacted the Snohomish County Public Utility District to help pay portions of the bill directly, and the lights stayed on. The online fundraising campaign goal is set at $5,500, so Paz can cover November’s rent and other payments.
“The response I have received in the community was more than what I would have ever dreamt of,” she said.
Cotterill believes this is what action should be taken when a friend is in need. She said Paz has been a huge part of the Sky Valley community for 14 years and is a wonderful person.
“I don’t want to see a business — her business — go down just because she has fallen under hard times,” she said.
Eventually, if he is serious about it, Paz hopes Galaxy Chocolates will go to her 10-year-old grandson, Jackson, who she has been teaching her knowledge to since he was two. Once in class, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, Jackson answered that he hoped to become a chocolatier. He will at least get the index of recipes his grandmother has crafted.
Paz said she preferred not to discuss the extent of her health conditions, but those interested in donating or learning more can visit gofundme.com/kathryn-pazgalaxy-chocolates.
Photo courtesy of Kathryne Paz: Galaxy Chocolates owner Kathryne Paz is self-taught and still tries to learn something new each month. Friends and community members are trying to gather support for the chocolatier who is struggling with medical issues.