Beloved Cheesecake Maker Crumble & Whisk Opens a New Restaurant in the East Bay
Selina Knowles, Communications Coordinator
January 13, 2023
Crumble & Whisk’s new brick-and-mortar restaurant in Oakland’s Laurel District marks a milestone for baker Charles Farrier, who credits his community for inspiring his business and baking. An Oakland native, Charles launched Crumble & Whisk in 2013 and started selling his exquisite cheesecakes at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in 2016. At the end of last year, he opened a storefront to expand the beloved bakery’s menu and community.
In the Bay Area, new restaurant openings are bound to face challenges, and Crumble & Whisk is no exception. From building maintenance and equipment installation to inflation of costs and scarcity of labor, Charles and his team have had their hands full with getting everything in order to welcome both new neighbors and loyal farmers market friends into the new space.
Creating Crumble & Whisk
Crumble & Whisk’s gleaming artisan cheesecakes have delighted farmers market shoppers along the Ferry Plaza waterfront for years. With over a decade of experience honing his craft, Charles takes pride in the fruits of his labor, coming in the form of cheesecake flavors like Beet and Berry, Apple Cider, Chocolate Marble, and Sweet Potato.
As a culinary school graduate, Charles’ talents and passion landed him in kitchens on cruise ships and in Bay Area restaurants. With some encouragement from friends and colleagues and help from the San Francisco food nonprofit La Cocina (which supports low-income food entrepreneurs), Charles made the leap to open his own business.
Now, Charles is taking a break from the farmers market to focus on the brick-and-mortar restaurant. While Crumble & Whisk’s artisan cheesecakes are sure to be missed at the farmers market, supporters can look forward to an expanded menu at his new bakery.
Charles says, “I realize that not everybody eats desserts, so you have to have options. That’s always been a goal of mine, trying to do a lot more than just one thing.” Crumble & Whisk is now serving up breakfast and lunch items, like freshly made quiche slices and personal pot-pies, in addition to house-made beverage options.
While making good on his goal to try new things and grow his business, Charles is sticking to his philosophy of highlighting local ingredients, especially in seasonal cheesecake offerings like Harvest Pumpkin and Strawberry Fields. He often sources from local farms, either at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market or other markets in Oakland.
Embracing Risk and Opportunity
Transitioning into a new kitchen and cafe space put Charles’ adaptability to the test. For the past three years, Charles was baking out of a shared commercial kitchen. When the building was unexpectedly sold, Charles suddenly faced the task of finding somewhere else to cook and deciding whether to open a storefront.
“I went back and forth deciding if I wanted to do it or not,” says Charles. “Then I finally decided to do it because I felt like it was a good opportunity, but also being scared and not knowing if it’s going to work.”
Once Charles started his search for a space the first hurdles surfaced: time and cost. “We had to look for a space within a month so we could move our whole business.” says Charles. “It wasn’t easy to find a space. A lot of them were too expensive.”
With a bit of luck, Charles landed at 4104 MacArthur in Oakland’s Laurel District, taking the place of a wings and seafood restaurant that was closing. But securing a location was just the beginning.
Staying Afloat Amid Inflating Expenses
Before opening, Charles had to bring his new bakery up to code. He says, “We had to make a lot of modifications to what was already here to really turn it into a bakery.” Nearly everything inside needed to be replaced or repaired, including the stoves, countertops, and refrigeration system.
The move-in process took about four months and significant funds, threatening the bakery’s success before its doors even opened. “Just trying to make sure that we could open up in time and get everything done, that was the main concern.” says Charles. “At one point I thought I was going to close the doors. We just didn’t have the money.”
Recent spikes in inflation have been another huge challenge for small food businesses in the Bay Area. “Inflation went up really high, so my eggs and dairy products got really expensive.” says Charles. “I’m still trying to figure it all out and make sure that I can stay sustainable and be able to afford everything.”
After opening last December, the next step for Charles is hiring more staff, but the search has been less than fruitful. “It’s been very difficult to get people to work,” says Charles. He isn’t alone in the struggle to hire reliable employees, a trend that has especially taken a toll on Black business owners.
Preparing for What’s Next
While experiencing both the pride and growing pains of expansion, Charles offers this advice to aspiring business owners: “Do a lot of research to know what you’re getting into. Ask a lot of questions and know that it’s something that you want to do. It’s a long road, and it’s a labor of love.”
For anyone who has tried an artisan cheesecake from Crumble & Whisk, there’s no question of the love that has gone into the food and the business. Looking forward, Charles hopes to stabilize the new brick-and-mortar’s business, while growing connections in his new neighborhood. “I’m hoping to be able to get new customers while also gaining more reach within the community in the Laurel District that I’m in now,” he says.
Stop by Crumble & Whisk at 4104 MacArthur Blvd in Oakland and follow Crumble & Whisk on Instagram.