Spotted at: Ferry Building, SF
Occupation: Systems Liaison For Wildbrine
What's your occupation?
We have a fermented food company called wildbrine—we make sauerkraut, kimchis, pickles and salsas.
How did you start out?
My husband, my business partner, and I sold a company and started this one in 2011. Our partner volunteers at a nonprofit in Sebastapol called Ceres Community Project where he helped them develop two of the recipes we still use today. They started selling them to grocery stores, and then we took over. Now we donate back to them. This new business is really, really engaging and fun.
Have you always been involved with cooking or food?
We sold our first company, G & G Foods, in 2006, which we had had for 20 years. My husband's been in food most of his career whereas I was in high tech a majority of the time.
How has the company evolved?
We started in San Francisco and we're now in Santa Rosa. We needed a bigger space for production so bought a building and moved our whole company up to Sonoma County. We brought all of our employees up there with us—which was really great. It's just past Petaluma, the next major town is Santa Rosa.
So it's been a pretty easy transition then—do you miss anything from SF?
When we lived in San Francisco, we went to new restaurants, attended live entertainment, and viewed foreign movies all of the time. Now we drive to San Francisco for the day to enjoy these activities. We're here today with our daughter on the way to the airport because she's going back to LA, where she lives. We'd love to own a place in San Francisco again, but right now this is working great.
What do you guys typically like to do in your free time?
We're pretty physical so we work out a lot—he does cycling tours all around the area and I do Zumba and strengthening classes. We visit organic farms, go wine-tasting, and take trips to the ocean. It's a pretty cool area to live. And there are a ton of great restaurants here, too.
What is the most challenging thing about running the business?
We've run a food production business before so we know the industry. Now we're selling natural foods, which is little different. Instead of selling to stores like Safeway, we are in natural stores like Whole Foods. The most challenging thing about selling wildbrine sauerkraut is that many people have a pre-conceived idea about what the flavor and texture should be. All of wildbrine’s products are naturally fermented—no vinegar ever—so they are raw, crunchy, and fresh—kind of like coleslaw but without the mayonnaise and with a tanginess. They are really delicious. We continuously do demonstrations at stores because once people to try it, they are totally on board.
What has been the biggest surprise in starting this new business?
How quickly people are embracing naturally fermented foods. They're getting on board fast and that's a really good thing. Everybody needs to eat more probiotic foods and this is a simple, enjoyable way to do it. Dr. Oz talks about it all the time, which has been great for us, and NPR has had shows, too. It's everywhere in the news.
What are your favorite places to visit here in the Ferry Building?
Well, we had to get a dessert at Miette. They are unique and so delicious. We were going to try and get some Hog Island Oysters but their line is so long that we had to change plans. We just had some great smoked salmon and smoked trout on bagels with cream cheese. Now we're wandering. We aren't here all that often, so this is really fun.
I won't keep you too long since you're on your way to the airport, but I just want to ask you really quick about what you're wearing. This coat is great.
This is from a store in Healdsburg called Options Gallery, Inc.—it's just off the square. Every holiday my husband, daughter, and son go to there to get me gifts because they have the most unusual, beautiful things.
This coat's brand is Nina Jacob but yeah, they carry unusual jewelry, hats—just a lot of really fun custom-made things.
I noticed this ring is really interesting too!
I got it at a street fair like this out in Sacramento with a girlfriend. I'm not sure what the stone is.