5 questions for Will Seppi, CEO of Sonoma County’s Costeaux French Bakery

Will Seppi is president and CEO of Costeaux French Bakery, a 100-year-old Healdsburg-based company his family acquired in 1981, and he has been leading the company since 2004.

In addition to its flagship bakery and café in downtown Healdsburg, Costeaux operates a retail bakery service at nearby Big John’s Market, Tia Maria by Costeaux in Santa Rosa and Costeaux On The Go at Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport. The company will open a satellite café inside Hotel Petaluma in the summer.

When we caught up with you for an inflation story last year, Costeaux, like so many businesses, was facing inflationary pressures and supply-chain issues. What is your current situation?

Supply-chain issues are much more manageable now and while commodities for the most part have stabilized, the run up in utility costs, as well as fuel coupled with significant increases in insurance premiums, continues to be a challenge.

Additionally, upward wage pressures due to a continued tight labor market for our industry sector and the high cost of living in California, and Sonoma County specifically, as well as the rapid rise in short-term borrowing, impacts the operation.

Not too many businesses last for 100 years. What’s the secret sauce for Costeaux?

I don’t think it’s a secret, or at least it shouldn’t be. Ultimately, we aim to live our core values. Provide a safe place for people to come to work. Make it fun. And set expectations. We take care of our employees who in turn serve our guests from near and far. We contribute to our community that has supported us for 100 years and counting.

Do you have future plans for Costeaux locations outside of Sonoma County?

Not currently. Although if the right opportunity presents itself, we’d give it due consideration.

What motivates you professionally and personally?

I take great satisfaction in seeing our team members grow and develop (both personally and professionally). It’s very rewarding to see people welcome new challenges, engage in understanding our business and saying “yes” to opportunities as they present themselves.

We have a young person who started with us through a CTE (career technical education) gap-year internship several years ago. She recently welcomed opportunities to fill in as the interim transportation manager and did an expert job! She continues to embrace new roles and responsibilities, learning as much as possible in all that she does.

When people want to learn and are inquisitive to develop knowledge and are all-in — that motivates me.

Did you ever consider a career outside of the family business? If so, what else interested you?

I certainly did — debits and credits. It was much too mundane, not at all like it was made out to be in “The Accountant.” (Editor’s note: “The Accountant” is a 2016 movie starring Ben Affleck.)

That said, I use my accounting skills daily and I am very grateful for the foundation.

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