Owners of Healdsburg’s Moustache Baked Goods advocates for LGBTQ youth
Ozzy Jimenez looks back with a sense of amazement at that pinch-me moment in September 2011 when he was handed the keys to his first business.
He was all of 25 years old. Gay Latino guys in their twenties don’t open shops in prime real estate along the tony Healdsburg Square. That just doesn’t happen. Certainly not in a weakened economy just wobbling back to life.
“I remember that day I first signed my lease. I had the keys in my hand and I looked at the building and realized I literally had no idea what I was getting into,” he said.
As they say, what you don’t know won’t hurt you.
The creative cupcake shop dubbed Moustache Baked Goods that he and his life and business partner Christian Sullberg brazenly opened with every dollar they could scrape together proved so popular that in 2014, they opened a high concept “heritage pie” and ice cream shop on the other side of the plaza called Noble Folk.
On weekends, lines of up to 80 people thread out the door and down the street with people willing to wait for a handmade cone filled with offbeat tastes like Cornflake Crown Maple and adzuki bean cinnamon that you won’t find at 31 Flavors. They have also branched out into a thriving wedding business, catering cakes and sweets at up to 10 weddings a weekend in high season. Things are going so well the pair several months ago opened a production bake shop in Windsor not only to meet the demand for their artisan indulgences but to spread the love beyond Healdsburg. They hope to open a third sweets shop — concept TBA — somewhere in Sonoma County before the end of the year.
But for the young entrepreneurs, success is not just measured by profit and loss statements or write-ups in Bon Appetit and Daily Candy.
“It still doesn’t feel like my job is complete,” Jimenez confesses. “We’re employing 33 people and making sure their bills are being paid. For me, that’s successful.”
Sullberg and Jimenez are protective of their young staff, virtually all under 30 and many of whom identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and non-binary gender (meaning they don’t necessarily identify as male or female.) Both feel a sense of responsibility to create a safe environment not only where they all feel comfortable and welcome and free to be who they are, but where they have the opportunity to express their personal creativity and grow in the job.
“A lot of these young kids that are around have more to offer than just serving someone’s drink or pastry,” Jimenez said. “We want to support that as business owners. It creatively gives us energy and also fuels their passion.”
One of Sullberg’s best friend from high school started working in the front of the house in Moustache and is now head decorator and oversees all the fancy, glitter-dusted French macaroons that are a signature treat in the bakery. Sarah Davis, who oversees weddings, also does hand-lettering for the menu board and other publications. Gina Stratham, also a wedding coordinator, is a graduate of the Parson’s School of Design in New York and lends her skills to graphic design as well as front-of-the-house work in Moustache.
“It’s definitely a youthful environment, very creative and very fast paced. You have to multi-task,” said Stratham, who, at 27, is among the oldest members of the staff.