Ozzy Jimenez and Christian Sullberg met at a coffee shop in Santa Rosa, just the sort of spot for two creative, hip 20-somethings to find each other.
They had both taken completely different routes to that day in 2010 when they started a conversation that turned into a friendship, a romance and then, most improbably, one of Healdsburg’s most successful young enterprises.
In one of their first conversations, Jimenez asked Sullberg what he wanted to do with his life. The answer surprised him because it turned out to be a dream they shared.
“I told him I wanted to open a hip bakery cafe in Healdsburg where I grew up,” recalls Sullberg. “He told me he wanted to do the same thing. We never thought ‘why try?’ We thought ‘why not try?’ ”
So Jimenez and Sullberg, at the time 22 and 23 respectively, started to make a plan that eventually turned into the Moustache Baked Goods, a specialty cupcake and sweets shop just off Healdsburg’s famed Plaza.
By any account, Jimenez and Sullberg were taking a huge risk even as they pushed their vision forward. Considered too young and too inexperienced, they had scant training in business and only Sullberg had baking skills when they decided to open, in the fall of 2011. The timing could have been better as the county and country were still reeling from recession and a recent cupcake shop trend already seemed to have hit a peak. It addition, it was coming up on late fall and winter, the slowest time of the year for Healdsburg’s retail trade.
Three years later, Moustache is in the black. Just south of its Healdsburg Avenue location and diagonally across the Plaza stands their newly-opened sister shop, Noble Folk, a hip ice cream parlor and pie bar which has been so popular on weekends, they routinely sell out of the $34 pies.
Jimenez and Sullberg have gone from spending hours and hours in the kitchen creating their hand-made, locally-sourced confections and then manning the counter enticing customers to buy them, to overseeing a staff of 22 employees and making plans for the future — including opening a third location in an urban setting such as Oakland or Portland.
It is the kind of daring idea that might scare off most people, but not those two new friends who sat in a Santa Rosa coffee shop four years ago and dreamed big.
For Sullberg, it was always going to be about food. The Healdsburg native, whose late father founded Michael Sullberg wines and whose mother worked as a general manager for restaurants, the industry beckoned from his earliest days.
“I just knew a regular corporate job wasn’t for me,” he said. “I knew whatever I was going to do was going to be something creative.”
It was in high school when Sullberg began seeking out and collecting old cookbooks and cooking textbooks. After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles for a change of scenery. But the experience only lasted a few months.
“It was a cliché I know. The young kid from the sticks moves to the big city,” he said. “I didn’t like it much but I did learn a lot. And I saw all these hip, cool restaurants and exciting concepts that worked and I wondered why we didn’t have those kinds of places in Healdsburg.”