Costeaux French Bakery of Healdsburg buys pie business from Kozlowski Farms

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Costeaux French Bakery of Healdsburg on Tuesday said it acquired the pie business of Kozlowski Farms, continuing a Sonoma County dessert staple that has been popular for generations.

The deal is part of an effort by the second generation of the Kozlowski family to wind down the business that was started about 70 years ago by Carmen and Tony Kozlowski, who grew their Forestville farm into a mini-food empire producing pies, jellies and butters that were sold in more than 20 states. Financial terms of the deal, which did not include any other Kozlowski product lines, were not disclosed.

In August, two Kozlowski employees who have been making pies for a combined 30-plus years will transition along with equipment to the 65,000-square-foot Costeaux Baking Centre wholesale production building near Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.

Costeaux will make and distribute the Kozlowski baked goods from the same recipes and continue the donation program to local nonprofits.

Will Seppi, CEO of Costeaux, said the companies have similar core values.

“We are very excited to see this transition come to fruition, coupled with great pride in being able to take on the Kozlowski brand is a great responsibility to preserve and continue its legacy,” Seppi said in an email.

The pies will continue to be available at local retailers such as Andy’s Produce, Oliver’s Markets and Big John’s Market in Healdsburg, and Costeaux plans to sell them to its network of specialty retailers in Mendocino County, too.

“We are delighted to have partnered with the Seppi family of Costeaux to continue our family legacy of quality locally made pies and pie tarts,” Carol Kozlowski-Every, co-owner of Kozlowski Farms, said in a statement.

Costeaux now employs about 130 across its production, retail and other operations. Kozlowski employed 20 as of two years ago, including six family members as of 2017. The number of workers now couldn’t be confirmed Tuesday.

The sale of the Kozlowski Farms baked-goods business follows an effort by the Kozlowski family since 2017 to find a buyer for the 21-acre property along Highway 116 in Forestville. Earlier this year, the family secured county approval for a 35,000-case winery and tasting room there. That move enabled the family to better market the property and it was put up for sale with an asking price of almost $9 million. The land is still available for sale, said Randy Waller, the real estate agent for the property.

The property, which was planted with 15 acres of pinot noir vines almost two decades ago, has garnered five offers as of April, Waller said at the time.

“There’s nothing to talk about with the property right now,” Kozlowski-Every said Tuesday, referring other questions to Seppi, who declined further comment.

All of the baking, processing and bottling equipment housed in the Kozlowski property will be sold at an online auction in September.

Keeping the Kozlowski pie brand going with local production was important to the family, the family said in Tuesday’s statement about the transaction with Costeaux.

The business started in 1949, when Tony and Carmen Kozlowski bought an apple farm. The operation expanded from baked goods sold in local stores in 1969 when raspberries where planted in the orchard, and that led to jams, jellies, fruit butters and vinegars. Sourcing for fruit eventually shifted to Oregon, Washington and Canada.

The future of the other Kozlowski products was unclear Tuesday, but Seppi said he plans to use the brand’s existing fruit sourcing for the pies and tarts.

A reason for listing the property for sale in 2017 was the cost of production at the 10,000-square-foot building in west county. The Kozlowskis opened that production area, store and administrative offices in 2013, after working from a smaller barn-style building for 45 years.

Costeaux started in 1923 in Healdsburg as French American Bakery. The Seppi family acquired it in 1981. The company distributes its breads, cookies and cakes throughout Sonoma County and the greater North Bay area. In addition to the main bakery cafe in Healdsburg, it has shops inside Big John’s Market in Healdsburg, Costeaux On The Go store at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport terminal and Tia Maria bakery cafe in Santa Rosa’s Roseland neighborhood.

In 2006, Costeaux opened its wholesale bakery near the airport.

“With a more centralized production and distribution point, Costeaux has been able to continue its slow but steady growth plan as the company celebrates its 96th year as a bakery in Sonoma County,” Seppi said.

Press Democrat Staff Writer Bill Swindell contributed to this story.

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