Business Briefing: Cookie baker, screen printer set up shop in SF

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday May 8, 2024
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Brennan Bowen displays some of the chocolate he uses for his Golden Gate Cookie Co. Photo: Matthew S. Bajko
Brennan Bowen displays some of the chocolate he uses for his Golden Gate Cookie Co. Photo: Matthew S. Bajko

From his apartment north of Golden Gate Park, Brennan Bowen has been baking up batches of chocolate chip cookies for his private classes about the history of the famed American treat. His tutorials have caught the ears of San Francisco librarians, who have been booking him at their branches to offer his unique take on the confections to their patrons.

Admittedly, Bowen prefers baking cakes. But with most taking about an hour to cook, it made more sense to create a class centered on cookies.

"Cookies have a quick turnaround time of 12 minutes in the oven," said Bowen, noting that after participants mix up the dough, "We cook it and we eat it."

Under a neon sign featuring a partially-eaten cookie and the queer-owned business' name Golden Gate Cookie Co., Bowen welcomes up to six people per session to his dining table for the three-hour classes during which he recounts the creation tale of the chocolate chip cookie, conducts a blind chocolate tasting, and teaches attendees an "elevated recipe" for the gooey desserts. He welcomed the Bay Area Reporter over in late April to witness his culinary offering firsthand.

"My 2024 goal is to have more people in the Bay Area know about my business," said Bowen, who has welcomed people from all over the world into his living room and kitchen since launching his business last fall.

Bowen also provides his cookie baking demonstrations as team-building offerings at various corporate businesses. His classes at public libraries are free for anyone to attend. He was at the Ocean View branch this week and is scheduled for the Noe Valley branch in September.

"I go to the library all the time. It is an under-utilized resource in San Francisco, in my opinion," said Bowen, who also serves as vice president on the board of ImpulseSF, the local chapter of the queer nonprofit aimed at fostering community.

Bowen, 30, grew up in Elk Grove, California near Sacramento, in a baking family. His maternal grandmother baked, while his mother had operated a wedding cake business in the 1990s but now runs yarn boutique Knitique. His sister and one brother are home bakers, while their other brother serves as the family's "taste tester," said Bowen.

After graduating UC Santa Barbara with a linguistics degree, he moved to Shanghai to teach English at a school run by the mother of a classmate. It is where he met his husband, Oliver Xu, who works in logistics.

The couple moved into their San Francisco apartment in 2022. Bowen had worked as an educator in Oakland until being laid off last summer. It prompted him to take the risk of launching his own cooking-based business.

He saw the chocolate chip cookie as the perfect treat to make the focal point of his workshops, as most people don't know much about its history. (They cost $70 per person at his home, $99 per person for off-site events.)

"It is interesting to see how integral to our culture the chocolate chip cookie is, and it isn't even 100 years old," said Bowen.

Having met Bowen at the Sip Shop Eat holiday event last December in the city, Auriyon Jacobs, 29, signed up for his cookie class with her husband, Josh Soto, to celebrate their second wedding anniversary.

"We wanted to do something different," said Jacobs, who owns the specialty wedding and birthday cake business Chef Auri's Suga Dotz.

She also hoped it would teach Soto, who doesn't cook, some pointers so he could lend a hand with her own baking business.

"Cooking is not my thing," Soto, an East Bay parks ranger, admitted, saying of the class, "it's been a learning experience."

Bowen said he created his class with people's different kitchen skillsets in mind.

"It is for people who have never used an oven to professional caterers," he said.

Fave owner Danae Lintz stands outside her new building. Photo: Matthew S. Bajko  

Screen printer takes over Castro storefront
Across town screen printer Danae Lintz is already making a splash in the Castro LGBTQ district with her first brick-and-mortar location to sell her queer-themed T-shirts and other designs under her brand Fave. Her painting the facade of her business the colors of the rainbow flag lit up social media in recent weeks ahead of her planned opening at 329 Noe Street at Market Street on Memorial Day weekend.

"People walking by have been super complimentary. People are already stopping and taking photos," said Lintz, who is lesbian and queer and has lived on Treasure Island for 14 years. "It has been super nice since I painted it myself."

The noticeably bright pop of color at what she has dubbed the "Rainbow House" hopefully will attract people to patronize the business, said Lintz, in addition to providing an Instagrammable photo opp. She was initially wary of the location since it is on a side street, but after being priced out of the 400 and 500 blocks on Castro Street, she reconsidered and signed a three-year lease with an option to renew.

With its rainbow paint job, the location is hard to miss. Situated a few feet from the major intersection of Noe, Market and 16th streets, the shop is also readily seen from the tourist-popular F-line trolley route that passes by and stops nearby.

"I am excited to create a landmark and for people to take a photo of it," said Lintz, 44, who was born in Santa Clara and moved to Santa Rosa with her family at age 5. "Maybe they will come in the shop and check it out while taking a photo."

She has split her roughly 2,000 square foot retail location into two distinct spaces. In the front half will be her screen-printing shop where half a dozen of her designs will be displayed on a rotating basis for those wanting to order tees. The cost will vary on the design, colors used, and how large the order is, though her pre-made T-shirt prices begin at $30.

In the back is a separate building that will house a queer mall of different vendors along with more of her own Fave merchandise. A small outdoor patio separates the two components of the store.

She has already lined up several queer vendors to join her in the space. The leather and kink scene retailer Byrd Beaks and apparel company Campfires & Coffee will both be selling their wares.

Lintz's business grew out of her creating tees in 2021 for fellow players in the San Francisco Gay Softball League. Her designs of a rainbow-colored player quickly sold out, leading Lintz to officially launch her brand in 2023.

At first she set up a table by the Castro Street entrance to the parking lot behind the Castro Theatre. Across the way was the closed clothing store Body, with the letters of its name spelled out in individual boxes above its window.

Dreaming of one day taking over the space, Lintz wondered what name she could use for the signage. Speaking about it to a random customer one day, the person suggested Fave, short for favorite, as in her designs are based on her favorite things.

To help her open up the store, the Castro Merchants Association awarded Lintz a grant of $20,000. She also secured a $25,000 grant from the city's storefront opportunities program, while the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District kicked in another $6,000.

"It doesn't feel like a risk because I've already done it," said Lintz of opening up a retail location since she had her portable shop she would set up. "It will be nice to have a roof overhead and not have to schlep my stuff around."

Eventually, Lintz wants to host classes and events in the space on a routine basis, from movie screenings to board game nights. The gatherings will require a small ticket fee, she expects, and will be alcohol free to provide an alternative to the LGBTQ bar scene.

"We will start with one or two events and go to a full calendar after we are open a few months," said Lintz.

Fave is scheduled to officially open to the public at 11 a.m. Friday, May 24. Lintz is still figuring out exact hours for the business but does plan to be open seven days a week from mid-morning until early evening.

Got a tip on LGBTQ business news? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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