Nobody knows better than Susan Lustenberger that success can be both a blessing and a curse.
The talented Novato chef, who recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of her wildly popular catering company, the White Rose Ranch, has decided to hang up her apron.
Lustenberger captured the attention and praise of local residents with her flair for cooking southern-southwestern inspired dishes using family recipes. Prepared largely with locally sourced ingredients, her take-home dinners turned a long-time passion for food into a profitable enterprise.
"It's been an amazing year beyond my wildest imagination," Lustenberger
confessed recently. "People told me I was crazy to open my business, and that it would never succeed in this economy."
Turns out the opposite was true.
Starting with just a handful of regular clients, word of mouth quickly spread about the White Rose Ranch's down-home comfort food. Within months, Lustenberger built a dedicated following of devotees numbering in the hundreds. Customers flocked to her tiny, modest storefront behind Sentimental Journey Antiques on Grant Avenue to pick-up one of her lovingly prepared nightly specials: Coca-Cola Tacos, Butternut Squash Enchiladas, Rosemary Chicken, and her signature Heirloom Tomato Pie, to name a few.
Along with her newfound success came accolades. She won the Novato Women In Business Top Chef Competition two successive years in a row, bringing even more attention to her rising star.
But it wasn't long before the growing business began to take on a life of its own. The impact was also taking a toll on her family. As a devoted single mother of three, she was feeling the strain of juggling the increased hours needed to cook and manage her business with the desire to be present in her children's lives.
"I was exhausted," she admits, "I was giving the families of Novato beautiful meals to sit down to every night, but I no longer actually got to have dinner with my own kids. It was an unacceptable scenario for me."
At a crossroads recently, Lustenberger did some hard soul-searching. "I no longer had balance in my life," she confided. "I needed to get my priorities back on track."
"I am so very lucky to have been embraced by this wonderful Novato community", she tells me with genuine gratitude, "but it's time to close up shop".
So what's the next chapter for this energetic entrepreneur? Rumor has it she will be returning to her roots as a Meditation practitioner--facilitating various
classes, workshops, and seminars on topics from cooking to stress management.
"If you think my Blue Cheese Biscuits are bliss, you should let me do a guided mediation for you!" she beams. Look for her classes at Front Street Yoga in downtown Novato.
And what of her beloved White Rose Ranch? Stay tuned for reinvention. "I've dreamed for years of having a barn where people can gather," she says with a twinkle in her green eyes, "a place to sit and enjoy a free cup of coffee, peruse antique treasures, and pick up fresh-cut flowers."
If history is any indicator, it's sure to be a hit. Good luck, Susan!