After 35 years, retiring owner selling Healdsburg bakery

Kathleen Stewart has dedicated half of her life to Healdsburg’s beloved community bakery — the Downtown Bakery & Creamery.

But, after 35 years as owner and operator of the Sonoma County business, known for its adherence to the tenets of the “farm-to-table” movement, she has officially put it up for sale.

Stewart, 72, who acknowledges she’s ready to move on, said, “It’s someone else’s turn.”

Stewart started the bakery with former pastry chef Lindsey Shere and former cook Therese Shere, who she’d worked with at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Together they applied the “sustainable food practices” they’d learned while at Chez Panisse to the bakery.

In 1997, though, the Sheres left and Stewart’s kids, Joe Stewart, now 40, and Maya Eshom, now 46, began working with their mom — making the business a family affair.

After the coronavirus pandemic hit in spring 2020, coupled with the state-ordered shutdown, many business owners were forced to review and reconsider their operations.

Stewart said she used the time to take a step back from the bakery and reflect on what was most important to her.

“In June, I decided that I needed to move on to the next chapter of my life, my kids need to move on, too,” she said. “We stayed open during the pandemic, which forced all of us to work more. It’s getting tiring. The pandemic sorta hastened the process of confronting a reality I needed to face.”

Located in Healdsburg Plaza, the bakery’s reputation grew as did the demand for its pastries and other baked confections made from locally grown, organic ingredients.

It attracted hundreds of visitors weekly, as well as longtime regulars daily. And on weekends, no one was surprised to see a line streaming out its front door.

One Healdsburg customer, Beverly Aziz, 72, a self-described bakery buff and seasoned foodie, said she fell in love with the bakery when she tried it for the first time three years ago after moving to Healdsburg.

She said she picks up a bag of pastries every week.

“The quality of these pastries isn’t like anything I’ve ever tasted before. I’m sorta picky with my pastries,” Aziz said, as she adjusted her brown bag brimming with delicious-looking baked goods. “The bakery has, by far, the best bread pudding. Oh! And the coconut cake — gosh that coconut cake.

“This place is a big part of my community” she added.

The sale of Downtown Bakery & Creamery follows other Healdsburg businesses that have made changes that can, at least partially, be attributed to the more than yearlong economic fallout.

In November, the Parish Cafe, a New Orleans-style restaurant, was put up for sale after owners Rob and Karla Lippincott decided they wanted to move out of Sonoma County.

Then, on June 1, Singletree Cafe, a 20-year-old breakfast diner closed its doors because of significant financial hits during large-scale wildfires, plus a long-delayed construction of a nearby city roundabout.

Ryn Longmaid, a restaurant broker who is working with Stewart to find the bakery’s next owner, said that several buyers are banging on her door, but that she doesn’t have enough restaurants to point them to.

“Normally, sellers fear that by making it known that a business is up for sale it could cause a disruption to the business’ (revenues) and employees,” Longmaid said. “I expect the opposite given the bakery’s success and its location. We want to continue the lineage of this downtown bakery.”

On Aug. 1, Downtown Bakery & Creamery was officially put up for sale and is now awaiting its next owner — one which, Stewart hopes, will be community-minded.

“When it comes to food — it’s all about the relationships. The relationships you have with your vendors, farmers, your customers — it’s deeply important,” she said. “I hope that whoever is taking over next will keep an eye on maintaining those relationships.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at or 707-521-5220. On Twitter @searchingformya.

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