RUSTIC BAKERY FOUNDER and president of the united states Carol Levalley is a rare breed: equal parts creative and virtual. She ’ sulfur person who can simultaneously dream up an epicure menu and build complicated spreadsheets, design granola packaging, and crunch numbers for a kitchen remodel. When she launched agrestic Bakery with conserve and partner Josh Harris in 2005, the estimate was bare: they would make and sell organic craftsman crackers. fiddling did they know their exponential success — Rustic Bakery crackers, chips, and cookies are nowadays found in markets across the U.S., Canada, Japan, and the Middle East — would lead to four local anesthetic bakery-cafes that have quickly become casual din landmarks in Marin. Levalley, for whom Rustic is a second career, sat down to talk to us about diving into a new career and managing the challenges of rapid growth and success.

How did Rustic Bakery and the Rustic brand come to be?

well, I was an artwork major in college and after college pursued a career in manner. I had a successful career in apparel in L.A. and started my own label in high-end casual women’s south clothing — kind of boho before boho was a thing. so, I ’ five hundred had a career in apparel for about 20 years when I started to think about getting into the food diligence. I ’ five hundred constantly loved to bake and had been making crackers to go with craftsman cheese for friends and family. I thought, “ Well, I’m thousand going to take a look at the best cheese to patronize in S.F., Cowgirl Creamery, and see if they have anything like these crackers. ” I went to the Ferry Building patronize and saw that they didn’t have anything handmade to go with the beautiful survival of cheese they offered. I contacted the Cowgirls ( cheese-company founders Sue Conley and Peggy Smith ), arranged for a merging, and took them some samples, which they loved. They said, “ We’ll take 50 cases a week. ” So that was reasonably amazing.

Was it a bumpy transition from apparel to fine food?

We were kind of stumbling around, as it was all new to us — we knew how to manufacture but didn’t deoxythymidine monophosphate know anything about the food industry. The Cowgirls were our mentors. They helped me develop eight flavors of flatbreads to go with their cheese. On October 13, 2005, we sent them their very first encase of 50; they were genuine to their word, as that was what they said they would order.

Was there a particular hurdle you faced as you launched the occupation?

Yes. We were renting a commissary ( shared ) kitchen when we heard about a kitchen for sale down on Magnolia in Larkspur. We had a business plan and it included finally buying a kitchen. It turned out this kitchen for sale in Larkspur had everything that we were looking for. The owner came to us and asked us if we would like to buy the lease for the bakery, but we didn’t deoxythymidine monophosphate have $ 200,000, which was the monetary value. So, I said to Josh, we can create a party and produce shares, and we’ll pull in family and friends and come up with $ 100,000. Of that, we’ll offer $ 40,000 for the bakery and we ’ ‘ll run the business on the remaining $ 60,000. The crackers were getting a great reception, and we couldn’t deoxythymidine monophosphate to keep up with the demand from places we were already shipping to. sol, it was kind of a no-brainer for everyone to jump on board. But then convincing the owner of the bakery that she should sell it to us for $ 40,000 was another thing. She took the offer. It had been for sale for quite a while with no offers, so she took our offer and we were murdered to the races.

That must have been terrifying.

I don ’ triiodothyronine remember ever feeling scared. I remember feeling like I was on a way that I had to keep going on. It just made common sense. It was in truth, actually hard to make to get the business started. I have never worked that hard in my life. I ’ five hundred be up by 4 at the latest and do all the dawn bake myself. My day was from about 4 ante meridiem to 6 post meridiem in the bakery. We had planned to just make the crackers, but the landlord said that in order to purchase the bakery lease we had to have a retail component. So I said, “ Okay, we’ll open a cafe. We’ll just make some croissants and serve coffee and it will be identical simple. ” then, equally soon as we opened the doors, it was popular. But it was extremely challenging because we nowadays had a new retail business and a new sweeping business. It was a draw at once. We were very small potatoes. I remember at the end of the day when we first opened the cafe, we had $ 500 and I said, “ Oh my gosh, Josh, this is amazing! ” I was thrilled.

You seem comfortable learning as you go.

For better or worse, I have an enormous total of assurance and I constantly feel like I can figure it out, one manner or the other. In the face of adversity, I respond well and figure out solutions. For me, it is crucial to see the stallion path ahead of me. If it isn’t thyroxine entirely clear what the right move is, I wait. I wait until I actually feel certain. That approach has never let me down. very frequently it is a “ eureka ! ” here and now, and then everything falls into put.

Has opening in Marin been critical to your success?

Yes. Marin has been very supportive of an organic business. originally, we approached the Cowgirls because I knew they would like the fact that I wanted to make organic crackers. then we decided we would make our whole cafe constituent. I serve people the means I serve food at home. It is very personal, 100 percent my initiation, and always with the highest-quality ingredients. My philosophy is to get the best you can. That wouldn’t have worked in a draw of places because organic means more money and constituent does not have the prize in some communities the way it is valued hera in Marin.

Marin Magazine Rustic Bakery

Your cafes are incredibly popular. Do you intend to continue to grow?

The four cafes we have correctly now feel actually good. We are looking at another localization that we are pretty unplayful about, but we’re not in active expansion on the cafe slope anymore. We built our 25,000-square-foot plant in Petaluma in 2015, and we merely took on another build, so we have doubled our space to 50,000 square feet of product facility. We’ve been able to grow our wholesale commercial enterprise very cursorily. Manufacturing is distributed easier than starting a cafe.

In February Rustic Bakery was in the news;  what happened?

It was a bit grandiloquent, but what happened was we had a run-of-the-mill, ordinary I-9 document audit. ICE conducted over 4,000 of these employment eligibility verification audits last year in California alone. All of our I-9 documents were in order and turned over to the auditor for inspection upon request. The hearer found that some of the software documentation on the forms was unable to be verified and we were told to give the employees in question an opportunity to provide verifiable documentation and if they could not, we would have to dismiss them.

How did you respond?

Over the last 10 weeks, we have hired and trained a large group of people to replace the employees we lost. It has been a difficult process and challenging to keep our cafe open during the transition. I would like to thank my general managers and bakery managers, who pulled together as a team to keep the agrestic Bakery going after the audited account. last, I want to thank our amazing customers, who have been supportive throughout the march.

What would you say to a young artisan producer?

Love what you’re getting into because it ’ mho going to be your life. Do you know you learn stories about how a charwoman lifts a car off her kid? Well, I feel like that was the kind of energy I had when I first base started, for the first five years of this business. I don ’ thymine even know how I did it. No theme.

What are you most proud of about your business?

The rustic Bakery Cafes have become community gathering spots and cornerstones. That is what ( as a cafe ) we wanted to be, and I think we succeeded in filling a need for that. It’s indeed fun when you’re here at Larkspur Landing on a dainty day and all the tables are full outside and you see people bumping into their neighbors and friends. That is what countrified Bakery is — the pulse of a residential district.

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