Clarks say ‘Mahalo’ to employees with trip to Hawaii

CRESWELL— When life gives you lemons, make lemon bars and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and then send your staff to Hawaii: that’s how the saying goes at Blue Valley Bistro. 

The locally owned cafe has been serving handcrafted food and espresso for 12 years in Creswell and three years since opening a second location in Coburg. 

Following pandemic restrictions for two years prior, owners Seth and Melissa Clark anticipated 2022 to bring the busiest and most challenging summer season employees had seen. 

Blue Valley Bistro’s Creswell location

“Even compared to where we were a year ago, I feel like the business has grown exponentially, and we’re getting so many more customers through the door and so many more connections with people that live in both Creswell, Coburg and neighboring cities like Eugene and Springfield,” said Nikkie Manesco, Coburg location manager who has worked for the Clarks for five years.  

“Most of my staff work 10-hour days. You come in and you’re working. You’re working with the general public; You’re hustling and reading tickets and by the end of the day, your brain is fried. That’s just a typical day, let alone in the peak season,” Seth said.

To reward their staff for past and present hard work, the Clarks promised them a vacation to Hawaii Jan. 19 – 26. 

And according to the Clarks, they are more than deserving.

“We have a really solid team but we also run really thin. We knew this was going to be a tough summer and everyone was going to have to buckle down and work hard … 

“We said ‘hey, listen, guys, we know summer will be tough, but I promise you we’ll make up for it. We want to take everybody to Hawaii,’” Seth said.

Hawaii has been a frequent destination for the Clarks, who love to travel, but according to her husband, Melissa is the “driving force” behind the efforts to take their staff.

“I want our employees to be proud of working for us. I want them to say ‘I work for a coffee shop but they are literally taking me to Hawaii,’” said Melissa. 

It’s not every day you hear a small business close for a week to take a hiatus to a tropical island. So how are they doing it? 

Through Melissa’s famous lemon bars and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, which she has been baking for close to a decade. 

“There’s something about them that people just love. I’m a people pleaser so I wanted to make sure I kept them in stock,” said Melissa. 

Even if this meant coming in on her days off, she was devoted to keeping customers happy. 

“I loved it because I love to bake and I love to give – that’s just who I am,” she said. 

But baking time came with a price: time away from her husband and six-year-old daughter, Lyla. 


To make up for lost time, Melissa opened Melissa’s Cookies LLC in May of 2022, selling lemon bars and oatmeal chocolate chips cookies with the sole purpose of providing a vacation fund for the family. 

Melissa sold cookies primarily to Blue Valley Bistro itself, leveraging compensation for her baking efforts. 

“It’s kind of goofy … but it’s a great way for me to justify travel. I want to experience that with my family,” she said. “Our employees are like family to us.” 

“It feels so generous of them because you can see a lot of business owners in the news who are profiting billions, doing budget cuts and letting people go, but Seth and Melissa being small business owners are doing everything to the best of their ability to keep their employees happy,” said Manesco.

In addition to current employees, the Clarks also extended an invitation to previous employees, who they felt were integral to the Blue Valley Bistro family including Amanda Hoffman, who worked for them for eight years and Tasha Reiz, a previous employee who is now the Clark’s part-time nanny. 

“They’re actually investing in their employees so that their employees feel like they can invest in them,” said Manesco.

Today, Melissa’s cookie efforts have raised close to $10,000, which will cover the majority of expenses of the trip. Melissa anticipates the trip costing more, and will pay for excess expenses retroactively with future profit from Melissa’s Cookies.  

“I’m so proud of her (Melissa). We always hear about big corporate trips to Tahiti and she said, ‘How come small businesses don’t get to do that?” She just said ‘Forget it. We’re just going to do it and we’ll figure it out. … Even if that means it’s coming out of our own pockets,’” said Seth. 

The Clarks will be covering all accommodations, rental vehicles and food, asking employees to pay only for their plane tickets. 

For a bargain price of $335 dollar plane ticket, 16 members of the Blue Valley Bistro family will be starting the year off basking in the tropical Hawaiian sun. 

“You don’t really get time to just sit and relax and talk to the people that you work with because it’s always like hustle and bustle. I’m excited to just actually catch my breath and talk to people who I don’t normally get to talk to,” said Manesco.



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