Zach Schat in Schat's Bakery

“If you make a bread customer, you have a customer for life.”

Since 1991, Schat’s Bakery has been a fixture in downtown Ukiah. It’s the place where lawyers pick up a quick lunch between court appearances and locals and visitors meet for coffee and housemade pastries and cookies. The menu reflects their location across from the courthouse with signature sandwiches such as “The Verdict,” “Legal Eagle,” and “The Conviction”.

We spoke with Zach and Lisa to get the story about Schat’s and how West Center has helped them.

The Schat’s family baking tradition began in Holland in the late 1800s. Zach’s father, who was a baker, moved to the United States from Holland in 1950. He sponsored his family to join him in the U.S. and like so many other immigrants, they landed at Ellis Island before moving to Orange, California where there was a population of Dutch immigrants. Zach’s grandfather – another baker – became a baker in Bishop, California and from that point forward the name “Schat’s” became associated with the bakery business, which is now in its 70th year.

Zach grew up in the bakery and restaurant business and when it was time to go to college, he questioned his decision but his father told him, “I don’t care if you become a baker, but you’re going to be an educated baker.” He went to UC Santa Barbara and at the age of 21 opened Schat’s Bakery in downtown Ukiah. At that time, Zach was the baker and cook six and a half days per week. He says, “I think it’s difficult to own, operate, and run a business if you don’t know how to do everything but obviously there are things that you don’t like to do or aren’t good at. When Lisa came on board, I realized that she was part of the missing link – the piece that could take the bakery to the next level.”

Operations Manager, Lisa Hensley, joined Schat’s when Zach ran into a problem. He had a wedding cake that needed decoration but no pastry chef to decorate the cake. He had heard about a wonderful cake decorator working at a local grocery store so he begged her for help. Lisa did a beautitul job decorating the cake and at that point Zach realised it was a great fit so he asked if she would come work at the bakery. Lisa agreed, thinking it would be a more creative outlet for her, but she ended up being the glue that holds the business together. She oversees the operations of each of the three bakery locations, runs the HR needs of 50 employees, and even helps out in the bakery when necessary.

Reflecting on starting his own business, Zach said, “I wish I had known about West Center 30 years ago. We figured things out by trial and error but we could have foregone a lot of errors had I known that they were a resource available for local businesses.” In fact, Zach did know about West Company but thought that their purpose was to help emerging women-owned businesses in the community. It wasn’t until he had the opportunity to listen to Mary Anne Petrillo speak at an engagement that he got a broader understanding of what West Center actually offers our community. At that point, he said to Lisa, “we really need to contact West Center to see if they can help us with the missing pieces of our business.”

Lisa picked up the phone and made an appointment with a West advisor. She says the process was simple: “I met with them and explained what I needed help with and they put me in touch with different consultants for each item. It was really, really, really easy.” Top priority for Schat’s was a revamp of their employee handbook, which Lisa describes as “a beast.” She says, “Our advisor put us in contact with an HR specialist advisor who was a superstar! She helped us from top to bottom and went above and beyond. We have a brand new employee handbook that’s now transcribed into Spanish. And during the pandemic, every week something changed so you really had to be on top of HR and our advisor was right on it – she was just a phone call or email away.”

Zach kept thinking that there was a catch – surely they would get a bill for all the services they had received but “all we kept getting was help and support.” He told us that he now recommends West Center’s services to business owners, similar to himself, who are trudging along doing what they do but don’t have a great understanding about the “other stuff” that goes into running a business. Lisa agreed saying that “West Center provides peace of mind so when something comes up, West is there to help you with anything you need.”

Both Zach and Lisa are enthusiastic about Ukiah’s future. Zach stated, “The downtown of Ukiah is changing. It’s becoming more of a place to be due to the streetscaping and a renewed sense of optimism and a more vibrant community. I’m excited about that.” 

We asked Zach and Lisa what their one word desciption of Schat’s is.

Z: Schat’s Bakery is home.

L: Schat’s Bakery is family.

Next time you’re in Ukiah, stop in at any of the Schat’s locations and pick up a great loaf of bread!