A little over a year ago, Angel Cruzado and Erica Land met on Craigslist, purchased Stateside Bakery and Cupcakes Food Truck, and started recreating nostalgic treats as Stateside Treats.
Learn more about their story and how they’re changing the world of nostalgic treats, one baked good at a time.
Spoon: Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Angel Cruzado: I’m Angel. I live at University Village in Albany with my partner who is a graduate student at UC Berkeley and our daughter Iris. I’m originally from Boston.
Erica Land: I’m from Nebraska and moved to San Francisco in 2004 for culinary school. I’ve been a professional baker for 13+ years and helped start two restaurants in Los Angeles. I have a dog named Sam who is 19 months old.
AC: We’ve been working on Stateside Treats for a little over a year now.
Spoon: How did you two meet?
AC: Craigslist. When you become a new parent, one of the things I learned is that, your life changes. It flips upside down, with regards to how you spend your time. I started thinking about how to bring nostalgia treats to the market. I talked about it a lot, and one day my partner said, “Just go do it!” But I didn’t know how, so I put an ad on Craigslist.
EL: When I saw Angel’s listing, I was still working at Dandelion Chocolate, but it wasn’t baking so I was doing a lot of side work and picking up gigs to feed my passion. I thought Angel was looking for a consultant, so I reached out and offered to help. We met at Whole Foods! Iris, his daughter, was strapped to his stomach.
AC: When we met I told her, “Well I don’t just want to do the cart thing anymore. I would like to purchase [Stateside Bakery and Cupcake Food Truck].” This is how the conversation started. Then we talked about what was important to us and started collaborating. We became co-owners on June 1, 2015.
Spoon: What drew you to recreating classic desserts?
EL: That’s one of the things that drew me to the project. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and dreamt about for a long time. It’s taking people back to their childhood and giving them this treat, that not only gives them a taste of nostalgia but is also 20 times better than original. Everything is made with six local, sustainable ingredients instead of 50 ingredients.
AC: The chocolate ice cream taco. I started thinking about what is going into my kid. Before Iris, I didn’t really think about eating poorly. It wasn’t something that was apparent for me. But when you do have a child, for me, it changed the perspective. You ask, “What’s in there?” When thinking of the ice cream taco, there’s the smell of the waffle, the taste of ice cream, the chocolate dip with nuts on top, and then flash freezing it with liquid nitrogen. That’s the big piece. Seeing it come together. Kind of like a science project. Companies have variations of using liquid nitrogen. The big difference with us is we’re selling baked and frozen nostalgia. Customers can step back in time while hanging out with us.
Spoon: What sets you apart from other dessert shops and bakeries?
AC: When you look at companies today, they stick to one thing, like cupcakes. They’ll do different variations and sizes of cupcakes. But for us, we do nostalgia baked and frozen treats which is different from what everyone else is doing. When we make our treats, we make them from scratch and source and partner locally. Some companies do that but we’re pairing it with nostalgia. It’s the “oh my god” factor. When someone bites into our taco or Oreo, they always exclaim, “Oh my god!”
EL: I don’t know of other company in the Bay Area that does nostalgia like this — taking a French macaron and flavoring it like Apple Jacks and Girl Scout cookies. I’ve never gone into a bakery and seen them sell a Twinkie. We really took that avenue and turned it into something special.
AC: Each customer is very different. We have kids that come into our shop who have never seen a Twinkie. So, a lot of parents come in and want to express themselves by eating from their childhood and by sharing it with their kids. We want to surprise and delight everyone that comes in.
Spoon: What has been your greatest challenge?
AC: On the business side, we’re a mobile company so we work with different spaces. We rent a production company that only gives us 40 hours a week. Erica has to sprint and produce everything. Since we only have big treats, we have higher demand on weekends. Plus, the food truck doesn’t have the proper refrigeration for ice cream. The challenge is how to consolidate and work from one location, so when Erica has the capacity to produce, it’s most effective for her and her team.
EL: If I were to pick a scenario that was challenging for me in the last year, it would be in October, when my mother passed away. I had to leave the company; I had no choice. Being a big cornerstone in the business, it was a shock for everyone. When I got back, both of my bakers gave notice. We had to see how to see how this would work, and I was the only one producing for 2 months. This put us at the grindstone and we had to see how to make it work while we find more staff. Finding employees who want to work the graveyard shift in Richmond is very difficult. We have a great team now, and I’m really happy with where we are.
AC: People don’t talk about the labor rates, but I do agree that increasing the labor rates makes it more difficult it is for people to start a business. You are supporting the very large companies where they have the economies of scale. We are such a small company with such a powerful product, and we need community engagement. We need them to say, “Those Stateside guys deliver the goods.” We’ve done very little marketing, but now we’re at the point where we know what we’re doing, what works out well, who to partner with, how to grow our business, etc. A year ago, we were stuck on the basics. How do you change the water in the food truck? Where to get propane? As we become more mature, the questions change. How do we focus our time and energy given that it’s very limited? How do we increase capability and capacity to ensure that we’re making more and showing up at the market effectively?
Spoon: And what has been your greatest success?
AC: That’s a great question because I’m very self-critical. I think that success is never final. I’m really proud of the work Erica has done in that each treat surprises and delights. We’ve gotten to a point that people recognize the treats that Erica make, and now we’re getting big companies ordering 3000 treats. It’s been pretty awesome.
EL: The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of success for us is the Salesforce/Dreamforce order. They had a huge conference last year, and we took on a $10,000 order of 4000-5000 pastries. I had to pull in bakers, truck staff, everyone into the kitchen and work three days in a row to make this order happen. To see Angel, Rebecca, and everyone else as a team, coming together to make the batch — it’s totally worth it. There was lost sleep and a few tears, but when we delivered that product to the customers at the convention center, it was a good feeling for me and made me look forward to more. We did a Star Wars release party and made Star Wars-themed Oreos. Angel was right there cutting shapes along with me. The fact that we’re willing to come together to help on each other’s side of the fence is the biggest success we have. It’s coming together to make it work and make the business successful. It’s a good team dynamic for him and me.
AC: The great part, as I hear her share that, is I sit behind wonder if we can do it. But now we get an order and Erica’s like, “Yeah piece of cake! You only want 300? Fine! Is that all you got?” From that point of view, the confidence factor of delivering the good. Surprise and delight with every single one.
Spoon: What do you envision Stateside Treats to be in a year? In five years?
EL: In a year, I’d love to see both the food truck and retail shop successful in that they both produce baked and frozen nostalgia treats. Now, we only offer on the baked treats factor. The development is done for ice cream tacos. We’re relying on Kickstarter to get the shop where we need to be to get the ice cream tacos in the shop. In a year, we’ll be selling both.
AC: I’d love, in five years, to have five shops where you can actually produce baked and frozen nostalgia out of one location and have a baseline foundation of what’s working and what’s not working. We’ll focus the business and see how we can be creative on both baked and frozen sides. We’ll have an ideal store location that has everything, so we can bake, produce, and craft at one location. We want to build a sustainable business model to recreate nostalgia not just for SF but for different parts of California and eventually the entire country.
Spoon: What’s one thing you’d want everyone to know about Stateside Treats?
EL: One thing that I want everyone to know is the product. The quality trumps everything. Iris eats these pastries. You can have these and still feel good about yourself. It’s not crap. It’s not bad food. It’s pastries you can enjoy — guilt-free. There are vegan and gluten-free options too. The quality aspect needs to stick with people, especially in the Berkeley community.
AC: For me, it’s for me a little different, Erica creates the crunch effect — a 6th sense people don’t think about. It’s when you’re having that Oreo cooking, you’re biting into it, you taste the flavor, and it reminds you of home or of grandma. It’s a very satisfying feeling. Our treats have the ability to really surprise and delight. When people do say “oh my god,” it’s in very special moments. It’s a little tongue in cheek, to get that OMG in a treat, and be very satisfied with the treat. A lot of people come in and buy 10 different treats and do a communal share with family and friends.
Spoon: Is there anything else you want to share with folks?
AC: We’re a small company that has challenges like every other small company. We go at it every single day. It’s personal for us. Sometimes, it’s really hard when we get compared to big companies and how they serve their customers 24/7. We’re small. We get up every single day and go at it. It’s very personal for us so we want to develop that personal relationship. We’re open to it if they are.
Support Stateside Treats through their Kickstarter campaign and help bring ice cream tacos to life.