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The 86-year legacy of Costeaux French Bakery

[caption id="attachment_27471" align="alignright" width="259" caption="Karl, Will and Nancy Seppi of Costeaux French Bakery"][/caption]

1923 The French American Bakery – the original bakery – was built at 421 West Ave. (now Healdsburg Avenue) next door to the current Costeaux French Bakery site. The bakery building was built and owned by S. Botero, who leased the space to Otavia and Ricardo Cassaza and their partner and brother-in-law Joe Tignoli, soon after their arrival from Italy in August. Bread was baked and sold on a limited day-of-the-week basis.

[caption id="attachment_27473" align="alignleft" width="230" caption="Costeaux's Healdsburg bakery staff"][/caption]

1927 The bakery was sold to J. Sarzotti and A. Viari, who featured breads, panettoni, pastry and grissini (breadsticks.) They delivered twice a week to customers in Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley who would charge their goods and pay once a year after they harvested their crops.

1930–1971 The Healdsburg bakery had several different names and owners, including Tom Alexander who changed the name to Alexander's Modern Bakery in 1958. Fred Loupi bought the bakery in 1959 and renamed it Fred's Bakery.

1972 Purchased by Jean and Anne Costeaux from Reims, France, the name of the bakery was changed to Costeaux French Bakery.

1981 Costeaux French Bakery was purchased by Karl Seppi, a former golf professional, and his first generation Italian wife, Nancy, who had visionary plans for expansion. The prior owner, Jean Costeaux, taught Karl the art of bread baking with an emphasis on sourdough. This first year, the bakery won the only gold medal given for bread at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. Ever since, the Seppis have come home with armloads of ribbons and medals.

[caption id="attachment_27474" align="alignright" width="360" caption="Costaux bakery"][/caption]

1986 Expansion into Santa Rosa’s Petrini’s Market was enthusiastically supported. Costeaux was the in-store bakery for this upscale market located at the intersection of Fourth Street and Farmers Lane. All four Seppi children – William, Lisa, Karla and Anne – came to the bakery after school to do homework using the huge flour sacks as desks, tend the counters and contribute to the work at the family business.

1991 After 10 years of increased bread baking production and further refinement of product offerings at the original site, Karl and Nancy purchased the old Cerri-Maggenti market, the large building next door at 417 Healdsburg Ave. Renovation commenced immediately. A French bistro cafe, an expanded dessert and cake line, and catering services were introduced and much welcomed by the Healdsburg community. The Seppis tripled their operation overnight.

1995 Delivery to the California North Coast was added with daily delivery to Mendocino County.

1996 Petrini’s Market in Santa Rosa was sold, and the lease for the satellite bakery was not renewed.

2004 Costeaux French Bakery, along with the Windsor Certified Farmers Market and Windsor High School culinary arts program baked the pumpkin pie of all pumpkin pies, winning an official Guinness World Record for the largest pumpkin pie ever. The pie – weighing more than 418 pounds – was consumed with great anticipation by a crowd of 3,000 well-wishers. The gargantuan pie tin is on display year round at the bakery.

2005 Nancy and Karl’s son, William Seppi, having matriculated Villanova University and risen in professional accountancy circles in Silicon Valley, moved back to Healdsburg to join the family business.

2006 Owners Nancy and Karl asked Will to take over all day-to-day operations as general manager so they could step back from active management. The business expanded operations and established a separate baking facility to accommodate increased demand for the Healdsburg bakery goods. The 6,500-square-foot manufacturing facility was completed in July. In the fall, the bakery won top accolades at the Harvest Fair, taking home the Best of Show for both Professional French and Specialty breads, in addition to being showered with Gold Medals in other bread categories.

2007 Costeaux produced the feature attraction for the Celebrate Healdsburg 150 Years Event – a five-tier sesquicentennial birthday cake for more than 3,000 celebrants at the downtown plaza. For a second time, the bakery swept the Harvest Fair’s top Best of Show for French and Specialty breads with many additional Gold Medals.

2008 The Healdsburg bakery cafe’s international acclaim was evident as the bakery served more and more customers from around the world, and magazine articles showcasing the bakery appeared in Japan’s Wheat Club, Northwest Airlines World Traveler and Modern Baking. Multigrain bread won an unprecedented third year as Best of Show at the Harvest Fair.  The bakery participated in the World's Largest Tortilla and World's Largest BLT contests.  It won the tortilla contest in partnership with La Tortilla Factory at the Las Vegas, Nev., event.  General Manager William Seppi was honored with the Spirit of Sonoma award by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, after nomination by the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce for his vision, business acumen and community involvement.

2009 Costeaux was awarded the 2009 National Retail Bakery of the Year by Modern Baking Magazine, representing the baking industry.  Owners Karl and Nancy Seppi attended the annual industry conference in Charlotte, N.C., to accept the prestigious award.  Professional packaging for bread products was introduced, further enhancing Costeaux's positioning as a regional giant in the wholesale bread baking business.