Bakeries that routinely involve themselves with the community are naturally more likely to be perceived as an integral part of the community.
As area demographics shift and markets evolve, bakeries need to be nimble and adapt to make the most of any business climate. At the same time, chasing after trends and nosing into new markets can result in neglecting core clientele and essential products. Bakery managers are forced to walk a tight rope in order to open new revenue streams without letting existing ones go dry.
Even after 85 years in business, Costeaux French Bakery, Healdsburg, Calif., still works everyday to strike that balance. While neighboring towns are growing by leaps and bounds, Healdsburg, nestled in a valley surrounded by vineyards, is constrained to the relatively constant 12,000 residents. But the vineyards that resist population growth also draw tourists from all over the globe seeking a glass of Sonoma County's most important crop.
“It splits down the middle, about 50 percent of our customers are local, the other 50 percent are wine country tourists,” says Abby Whitenack, marketing and communication manager. “We have a delicate line to walk to draw new people in without offending local constituents who know what they like.”
Having been in business for so long, Costeaux enjoys a substantial niche in the Healdsburg area. But Whitenack isn't content to rest on tradition alone as a foot in the door to the community's hearts and minds. She keeps the bakery actively involved with the community, making sure that Costeaux retains its status as a local institution. When the community needed a cake to celebrate its 150th anniversary, for instance, Costeaux donated an elaborate, five-tiered cake for the event.
Not only did this reinforce Costeaux's involvement with the community, the donated cake allowed 3,000 residents and tourists alike to sample product. The following day, the bakery café broke store records and realized a noticeable uptick in cake orders within the week.
“We advertise so visitors know about us, but there really is no better advertisement than the recommendation of our local customers,” says William Seppi, general manager. “Visitors want to eat what the locals eat.”
In celebration of their 85th year in business, Whitenack has positioned the bakery in a number of prominent community events, such as concerts in the town square. Each event further cements Costeaux as Healdsburg's very own bakery in the minds of local consumers. A year-long anniversary celebration goes hand-in-hand with a plan to remodel the bakery.
“Our form of renovations are really just freshening up, since we haven't had any renovations since 1980,” Whitenack says. “We needed fresh paint to perk it up a little. That will appeal to international clientele without alienating our local customers.”
To cap the face-lift, Costeaux introduced a new logo. Whitenack entered a bakery float in a local parade to unveil the logo. The float, complete with tiered cake and 85 balloons for 85 years of business, won first place in the float competition. This is the sort of approval Whitenack is fostering with her community involvement schedule.
“Civic responsibility and community service are huge company values here,” Whitenack says.