Baksheesh sold to longtime employee

After nearly 20 years in Sonoma and a decade on the Sonoma Plaza, Baksheesh will ring in the new year with a new owner – and a new name.

Baksheesh owners Candi Horton and Brian Smucker are selling their store to former employee Sofie Wastell. Baksheesh originally opened on West Spain Street in 1997 and moved to the Plaza on First Street West in 2002.

Wastell started working at Baksheesh in 2005 while a student at Sonoma Valley High School. The Sonoma native remembers being immediately drawn to the store’s commitment to only selling fair trade items. After four years of working at the store and learning from Smucker and Horton, Wastell was promoted to her latest role as store manager in 2009.

“Working at Baksheesh has altered the direction of my future in the best possible way,” Wastell said. “What started as a part-time position after school, has morphed into a full-time passion.”

Smucker and Horton have plans to retire. “The timing is just right,” Smucker said, adding he would like to retire while he has energy to do other things and the economy is stable enough to sell the store. “It’s valuable (to us) to promote from within,” Smucker said. He and Horton are “excited to have someone (they) know and trust bring fresh energy and ideas to Baksheesh.”

Smucker and Horton moved to Sonoma in 1997 from the Midwest and are excited to sell their store to a local Sonoman.

Baksheesh is so special, Smucker said, because of its philosophy, “being a fully committed from fair trade store … providing access to a market for good, hard working people around world that lets them earn a good living.”

Wastell is thankful to be working in a place where she has the opportunity to travel and to make a difference in other people’s lives without just giving a hand out. She quotes a famous proverb, “‘If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; if you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.’ That’s why I think fair trade is so important, we are teaching people a skill and marketing and selling their products, so they can rise from whatever they are dealing with – prostitution, leprosy, being cast lower.”

Horton and Smucker will keep the Baksheesh name and their other store in St. Helena. Since the St. Helena Baksheesh store is not yet sold, Wastell had to give the Sonoma store a new name and some new branding. She chose the name Global Heart to represent a worldwide operation that is rooted in compassion and respect for others and their arts.

Wastell designed the logo for the store, a globe in the shape of a heart and is looking forward to little updates, like replacing the sign out front and getting new cards with her new name and logo.

Everything else, she said, will stay the same. “The store will stay 100 percent fair trade, we will sell the same things, the employees who are here will stay,” Wastell said. She will also keep the core philosophy of the store the same, carrying on the lessons of trust and ultimate love of people that Smucker and Horton taught her. “They have shown me that it doesn’t really matter where you start – I mean, look at me,” Wastell said.

Wastell, Smucker and Horton will host a New Year’s Eve celebration at Baksheesh, 423 First St. W. in Sonoma, from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31, with champagne toasts to wish Smucker and Horton farewell and welcome Wastell.