The MGH Report

Michael G. Haran, Proprietor

A Town Treasure on a Bagette

Posted by on Jun 4, 2015

A Town Treasure on a Baguette

 

With all of this ebb and flow on the Seghesio project I thought I’d check in with one of the most respected local merchants in the community, Will Seppi, general manager of the family owned Costeaux French Bakery in downtown Healdsburg.

Seppi #2

Will Seppi

Costeaux has been around for some 92 years, first as the French American Bakery, which was owned by Octavia and Ricardo Cassaza. In 1927 the bakery was sold to J. Sarzotti and A. Viari who featured breads, panettone, pasties and grissini (breadsticks). They delivered twice a week to customers in Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys who would pay after the annual harvest.

From 1930 to 1971 the bakery had several different names and owners including Tom Alexander who changed the name to Alexander’s Modern Bakery. In 1959 the bakery was bought by Fred Loupi (still a Healdsburg resident), who changed the name to, what else, Fred’s Bakery. During Fred’s tenure there was a rumor around town of a bakery truck spinning “donuts” on the plaza lawn but Fred doesn’t know anything about that. In 1972, the bakery was bought by Jean and Annie Costeaux from Reims, France and gave the bakery its current name.

In 1981, the Seppi family bought the bakery and kept the name. Karl and Nancy often visited Nancy’s great aunt, Mary Zandrino, who lived on a ranch in west Dry Creek. It was Mary who knew the bakery was for sale and suggested that Karl and Nancy buy it. Karl, who was a golf pro, was taught how to bake bread by Jean Costeaux. Karl didn’t seem to have much of a handicap switching to the bakery business as Costeaux won the only gold medal for bread at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair that first year and they have been winning gold medals, and even national acclaim, ever since.

Seppi #4

Costeaux

After graduating from Villanova University and a stint in accounting for a Silicon Valley finance company Will took over the business full time in 2004. He and his three sisters (one of which, Karla, along with her husband Rob Lippincott own the popular Healdsburg Parish Cafe) grew up in Healdsburg where Will still lives with his wife Brandy and their three kids ages 3, 2, and 8 months. Under Will the company has kept growing. They now sell their wide assortment of baked good in not only Sonoma County but also in Mendocino, Napa, Marin and San Francisco. They produce from three to five thousand loaves of bread per day which can go to ten thousand or so with special events. Even though they now have over 85 employees (50/50 retail and production) you can still see Will delivering bread to places like Big Johns.

The bakery and restaurant on Healdsburg Avenue is a beautiful facility reminiscent of a French villa. With an eye on ecology Will recently put in solar panels and to save water he put in a brown colored wood floor instead of tile that needed to be mopped daily, also the crumbs blend in better. Their annual events including Bastille Day (the replica guillotine was made for them by Aristocrat Wood Products and Redwood Auto Body) and Christmas Eve celebrations are a lot of fun and Nancy’s spirited homemade eggnog is very popular. Their in house promotions include a December 24th “secret envelope” where you can win a gift certificate, complimentary bread, desserts or cookies and a “coffee coin” can get you a croissant, cookie or loaf of bread.

Seppi #6

Costeaux Interior

But it’s not the in-house promotions that define the Seppi family. When it comes to giving back to the community Will seems to be everywhere. Each year the bakery donates money and products to an astounding 500 community events including Northern County Services, the Healdsburg Senior Center’s Christmas dinner, Redwood Gospel Missions Great Thanksgiving Banquet, FFA and more. They contribute to the KZST Secret Santa Christmas gift program; the Algebra Academy and internship programs at Healdsburg area schools and have sponsored family ESL literacy programs for their employees. And the list goes on and on. The Seppis’ may not be the Triones’ but their philanthropic mind-set sure is.

Seppi #3

Costeaux Solar Installation

So what’s Wills’ take on the Seghesio project? He says that Pete Seghesio, like Will grew up in Healdsburg, and loves the town and community and can understand why Pete was a little shocked at any negative reaction to the project. The business will generate jobs and tax revenue and if the meat market does well it will become a popular local venue not unlike Costeaux. As far as the upscale restaurant goes most locals, even though most couldn’t or wouldn’t spend that kind of money on a restaurant meal, thought it was fun having Cyrus’ in town. It’s like the downtown wine tasting rooms; if there is a demand they will stay in business, if not they’re gone.

But one thing is for sure, the Seghesio have and will give back to the community and, like the Seppis’ they are part of the fabric of the Healdsburg community.

 

 

 

 

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KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON

Posted by on Dec 18, 2013


Commentary

Healdsburg Tribune

12/5/2013

After reading Rollie Atkinson’s editorial it got me thinking just how valuable the Tribune is to Healdsburg and I’m sure how the other Sonoma West Publishers’ weekly papers are to their communities.Healdsburg Tribune #1

Rollie did a good job of listing the paper’s features and their benefits. I had never before looked at ads as news but Rollie’s comment, “The butcher’s special at the grocery story is a big weekly headline for us,” caught my eye. The Big John’s Market back page ad is the first thing my wife looks at when the paper arrives at our house. I look at all the ads in the Business Directory to see who is still advertising and who is new to the section and doing what. I like to follow the activities of the business owners that I know.

I enjoy following the Healdsburg High’s sports teams especially the basketball teams. I play basketball on Saturday mornings at the high school gym which is monitored by Wayne Rudy for the Town’s Park and Rec Department. He is a long time junior high and high school basketball coach for both boys and girls and he regularly brings the younger kids to our pick-up games to play against the all-ages that play there. The kids I have gotten to know I follow their high school sports careers in the Tribune. The Saturday mornings are also an on-going mini reunion of sorts as many of the players that have graduated occasionally come back to play.

In an interview with the California Newspaper Publishers Association in 2012 Rollie said, “We have a very low turnover in most of our organization, except for our newsroom. Our wage level is terrible, but we do offer a great learning experience and lots of freedom to explore the craft and trade of writing and journalism. I think we’ve been very lucky to keep finding the level of talent we do.” When asked “What are some of the ways the industry can preserve newspapers in our communities?” he went on to say… cautiously (very cautiously) explore projects or relationships with civic journalists.”

When we moved here about eight years ago, I wrote my first Tribune Letter-to-the-Editor about little Christmas tree that would light up every night in a vineyard. I have since gone on to write commentary that has been published in not only the Tribune but also the Press Democrat and other publications. I have to say that the tribune has helped me, and others, become a commentary writers and “civic journalists.”

Now if you look at what is published every week in the Tribune such as public notices, obituaries, local news, what the town government is up to, event calendars, school-library-museum announcements, local columnists and editorials on local, state and national issues I too am amazed at what a bargain the paper is at 50 cents. I think it is quite easy to justify $1.00 a copy. I feel the real value is closer to $5.00 but unfortunately you wouldn’t sell many papers at that price.

The paper is not just a local resource. When I travel and stay in a new community the first thing I do is buy the local newspaper to get a lay of the land. Even though my stay will be short I can serendipitously immerse myself in local politics, culture and the business community. I’m sure many Healdsburg tourists have found their stay in our town more rewarding by picking up the Trib and reading it with their morning lattes.

This is some of what the Trib means to me. So in this Thanksgiving season we certainly should be thankful for having the Tribune and we have to support the local merchants that support our town newspaper. I’m sure Rollie is not getting rich running his little publishing empire but he is certainly making us the richer for having the Healdsburg Tribune.

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