For Angela Garbacz, a finished batch of macarons, cookies or cinnamon rolls means more than just making sweet treats to enjoy. Baking is a way to tell a story, make somebody’s day and connect people from all over the country.
Garbacz, a Lincoln native, originally started Goldenrod Pastries as a blog in 2014 when she was working in international marketing at LI-COR Biosciences, a Lincoln-based biotechnology company. Her blog was a platform for her to share recipes, anecdotes and tips on starting a business.
In May 2015, within a year of launching her blog, she opened a brick-and-mortar store on the corner of South 48th St. and Prescott Avenue in Lincoln’s College View neighborhood. Goldenrod is an intimate, homey establishment filled with delicious smells of baking.
The first thing customers notice when they walk in is the massive, crowded display of all the treats Garbacz and her staff have spent their time perfecting. There’s seasonal decor all around and a little kitchen playset in the corner for younger visitors.
When she started her blog, Garbacz had just found out she was lactose intolerant and was looking for a way to continue enjoying sweets. She was having trouble finding dairy-free sweets in stores, so she decided to make her own.
Her own experience with dietary restrictions inspired her vision of making Goldenrod. She said it’s an “inclusive bakery” where people can find something they will love, no matter their eating habits.
“We do a lot of work and recipe testing to bake delicious treats for as many allergies and diets as possible,” Garbacz said. “The world is a very divided place and there are a lot of exclusive things that are happening, and food should be the one thing that brings us together.”
Garbacz has been baking since she was 6 years old. She grew up always in the kitchen; it was where her family spent most of their time together. She said they ate dinner together every night, where they had their most intimate, personal conversations. She used her passion for food and family to thrive in her studies at the International Culinary Institute in New York City.
After she graduated, she had job offers around the country but felt a pull to come back home. Goldenrod’s namesake itself is a love letter to her home state, as the name comes from Nebraska’s state flower.
“I think Nebraska is really special in the sense that the communities are really strong, and you can really build a business and do what you want to do here,” she said.
Last March, Goldenrod received national attention from outlets such as Food and Wine magazine, Forbes and Martha Stewart for Garbacz’s “Empower Through Flour,” a nationwide movement she launched to unite female bakers and restaurant owners around the nation during Women’s History Month.
For the campaign, Garbacz asked around 20 female chefs to create a special pastry that incorporated the color purple. Thirty percent of the proceeds from those pastries were donated to I AM THAT GIRL, a nonprofit organization that provides leadership and development programs to high school and college-aged girls around the country. “Empower Through Flour” was so successful that Garbacz plans to do it again next year, with new people already asking to participate.
According to Garbacz, “Empower Through Flour” isn’t only beneficial for inspiring young women, it also raises awareness about the blossoming, but often overlooked culinary industry in the Midwest.
“I think Nebraska, the Midwest and the Great Plains are doing a lot of really amazing things, and it’s really disappointing to see the people on the coast not necessarily recognize that,” she said. “‘Empower Through Flour’ is just another way to bring attention to this part of the country and help people realize that this really is a special place and important things are happening here.”
Since its inception, Garbacz has grown Goldenrod to a team of 10 women. Sophia Messineo, a freshman advertising and public relations major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has worked at Goldenrod since her sophomore year of high school. Messineo said her co-workers all have something different to offer and provide an engaging work environment.
“I am surrounded by really hardworking and driven people at the bakery,” she said. “Having them as role models during high school and now college has taught me so much about what it means to be a strong and dedicated woman in our world today.”
Messineo said working at Goldenrod has taught her valuable lessons she has carried into her first semester of college.
“I've learned so much during my time at the bakery,” she said. “Goldenrod was my first real job, so I've learned a lot about what it means to be a good employee and teammate.”
A crucial aspect of Goldenrod’s success is its active social media presence on Facebook and Instagram. Posting daily Instagram stories informs its 16,000 followers about featured pastries and new offers, as well as gives a behind-the-scenes look at the staff’s daily routine. Garbacz said their social media efforts have created a following for the bakery.
“I wanted people to join in on the process of learning, like how we build a bakery, how we bake dairy-free,” she said. “It's a journey, and I think that being very honest through social media is important because your customers will know when you're lying.”
While Garbacz is happy with Goldenrod’s success thus far, she said she is still focused on continuing to establish the bakery’s brand nationwide.
“Hopefully people will notice that we want to make a difference with talking about inclusive baking and dining, making an impact on the food industry as a whole and focusing on the culture of food and the culture of women being strong leaders,” she said. “My growth plan right now is to make a difference somehow.”
This article was originally published in the January 2019 edition of The DN.