NORTH BEND, Wash. — They blew in on the gust of a wintry storm only to find it was standing room only in the Mar T Cafe.
Old men in parkas and work boots, British travel agents in tweed coats, teen-agers in leather jackets, sneakers and T-shirts--all of them waving off menus because they knew exactly what they wanted.
"Cup of joe and cherry pie, please," they chirped to a busy team of waitresses who knew that already.
"We call 'em 'Peakers,' " said waitress Susie Graves, 34. "We know they're Peakers even before they get out of the car."
Peakers, she explained, roll into town craning their necks for a glimpse of the cafe or anything else they can recognize from the television soap opera "Twin Peaks," which uses the coffee shop and the surrounding countryside 30 miles east of Seattle as a backdrop.
Parveen Hayre, 24, a vacationing bank clerk from Birmingham, England, was one of them.
"I'm here because of 'Twin Peaks' and to tell everyone back home it's a real place," she said, wide-eyed as she dashed inside the tiny coffee shop. "I've just got to have some cherry pie and coffee here because ('Twin Peaks' character) Agent Cooper recommends it."
Cherry pie and coffee have been selling better than biscuits and gravy in this backwater logging town since "Twin Peaks" director David Lynch bellied up to the Mar T counter two years ago. Lynch ate a forkful of cherry pie and exclaimed: "This is the best pie I've ever had in my life!" recalled Mar T pastry chef Garnet Cross, 73.
"My pie crust and 'Twin Peaks,' that's what did it," said Cross, who has put off retirement to keep up with demand that can exceed 50 pies a day. "I've baked more pie than any bakery in the state of Washington," she boasted.
Down the road, in the twin city of Snoqualmie, Cris Dillon, 29, had a close call when she tried to cash in on "Twin Peaks" fever. The owner of a Victorian gift store called Isadora's, she ordered $1,600 worth of "special 'Twin Peaks' maps" only to learn that the moody, ominous show faced possible cancellation.
But ABC recently came to the rescue, announcing that the series would return to the air in a new time slot, Thursdays at 9 p.m., beginning this week.
Ever since, "my maps have been selling better than handmade lace from China," Dillon said.
Never mind that her maps lead the way to people and places that only exist on a television series with an uncertain future.
"Twin Peaks" started with a bang last April with the death of fictional homecoming queen Laura Palmer and the arrival of pie-eating FBI special agent Dale Cooper. Along the way, Cooper meets such characters as the Log Lady, who chats with a three-foot log that may or may not know who killed Laura Palmer.
Director Lynch used such regional landmarks as looming Mt. Si, 254-foot-tall Snoqualmie Falls and the tiny Mar T Cafe as settings to spoof the seedy, tormented "real doings" beneath the surface of otherwise upstanding towns in rural America.
Some old-timers are uncomfortable with their newfound notoriety.
"That show rubbed some folks the wrong way," said Dick Carmichael, owner of the Coast-to-Coast Hardware store in Snoqualmie. "Some people looked at it, saw the goofy story and got the impression we are a bunch of damn weirdos."
It all makes for dialogue and encounters that could have come straight out of a movie by, well, David Lynch, who directed such weird and fascinating films as "Eraserhead," "Elephant Man" and "Blue Velvet."
Cross, for example, will not divulge her secret pie crust recipe. But she adds that "of course, I wouldn't know how good it is. I've never tried it myself. I'll have to take his (Lynch's) word for it."
A block away from the Mar T, Joanne Richter has devoted a whole corner of her Alpine Blossom Floral Shop to "Twin Peaks" souvenirs. The corner, she said with a smile, "is the most profitable spot in the store on a per-square-foot basis."
"We've sold 5,000 'Twin Peaks' T-shirts since July," Richter said, "not to mention 'Twin Peaks' tapes, caps, post cards, buttons and Log Lady logs."
Log Lady logs?
"They're just old logs we cut up in our back yard," Richter said, cradling one in her arms with a price tag of $4.95. "If they don't look just right, I glue some moss on the side."
"A woman bought five of those logs the other day," marveled one resident. "That's $25 worth of wood she could have picked up on the side of the road."
"If there are people out there stupid enough to buy stuff like that, more power to them," said barber Ed Lamb. "It doesn't help my business or hurt it."
A large sign on Lamb's window said: "This business supported by timber dollars."