On Spreading Joy Through Cookies and Hard Work
By Angela de Mesa
We are living in a time where college students are thinking about their endless career possibilities and how each choice a low- to-mid-20-year-old makes seems detrimental to their entire future. It is nice to discover someone who seems to find her own balance throughout this roller coaster like stage in life. Paulene Escolar, a full-time manager at Cookie Bar and a part-time freelance architect. She has a full schedule discovering and spreading joy through her work.
Getting the chance to interview Escolar gave me a feeling of relief. It proves that sticking to your gut and being kind along your career journey can lead to a bright future.
Where are you from, Paulene Escolar?
I’m from Alameda, California in he great Bay Area of San Francisco.
How long have you been living here?
I was raised in the East Bay. For all of high school and part of college I was also living in Tracy. I was commuting back and forth to Alameda to see friends and family, and to SF State for school.
What did you study at San Francisco State University?
I was in the interior design program during the second half of my college career. The first half I focused on all the pre-reqs for it and all the general classes.
I also know you did classes at Peralta. How was that?
I mostly did that because sophomores had last priority in picking classes at SFSU. So, getting the general education classes was the hardest thing to do. I figured commuting from Tracy to San Francisco… damn near an hour and a half. It costs a lot of money, so I might as well do half time at SF State and do half time at Peralta to get the general education classes. It was more flexible, it cut down commute time and money, and classes were available. I liked that I did that.
How long have you been working at Cookie Bar?
For 3 years… since they opened.
It must have been exciting starting from the beginning of the new store, so how was that process? How was it building from the ground up at Cookie Bar?
Yeah! Let’s talk about that! Well, it was at the end of summer after graduating college. I already had a part-time job at a dry cleaner, but quit because I wanted to do what I went to school for. I was still intimidated to go into the field. I was contacted by my brother’s friend, Rob. His good friend of many years. He asked my brother if I was looking for a job and I said yes.
So, he took me on as a regular team member. And it was still new to him. He didn’t know anything about cookies and ice cream. He just knew that he wanted to bring something fun and exciting to his hometown. He brought me on board. I just shined and proved I could take lead in anything. This was good too because he didn’t know exactly what he needed…and we kind of just grew together. We grew into it. Being there from the beginning and not knowing, then learning together. It really became us.
Especially, since you guys started on the same day, right?
Our soft opening was actually everyone’s first day. We didn’t know we were doing! Our arms were aching at the end of the night, since we didn’t know how to scoop ice cream. We just learned within that night and we mastered it because we were just scooping all night. It was a lot of fun because we were the talk of the town. Alameda is our favorite town and it is cool to be part of something new here when it rarely has new things.
So, tell me about a regular day at Cookie Bar?
When I open the shop, I am usually there by myself before actual business hours. I’m there prepping the store and making sure everything is clean, ready, and stocked. I bake cookies for the day. It’s pretty important because you have to predict how much you’re probably going to sell during that day.
That’s how the day starts, and then we’re open for business. Earlier in the day it’s a little slower, then it picks up when kids get out of school. It slows down, then picks up again during the dinner rush. It definitely is busier toward the end of the day. We are pretty much scooping… serving smiles and happiness all day. That’s a big thing too. I learned that attitudes are contagious. Even if you are just serving cookies and ice cream that could really make someone’s day. And even the other way around, you’re having a shitty day and someone is really happy to get their cookies and ice cream from you. You think, “Oh, okay. THAT’S cool!”
Along with being a manager at Cookie Bar, you are also a freelance architect. How long have you been doing that for?
A little bit after the beginning at Cookie Bar. It’s in the more recent years and months that I’ve been in more full swing with the architect. Working at Cookie Bar and my boss knowing what my degree is they always wanted to feed that. They knew I had other talents and other skills. They wanted to see what else they can do for me and what I can do for them them. That was really cool and this is another process of us growing together. So, they happened to know an architect who helped them with another project. They pushed me his way and have been with him since. I’m very thankful.
So, now tell me about a day with the architect?
When I would work with him, I assist him in measuring houses. It only took a few times for him to say okay I can go do it on my own. At first, I wasn’t too comfortable. Then it was fine [laughs]. So, some days I would go out on the field and measure houses and commercial buildings. A LOT of measuring. You got to have that detail. You got to see every corner… and every corner on the corner [laughs].
And would you also draft for him?
Yes. It was mostly drafting existing space that needed construction. I pretty much translate what’s in real life onto the computer. From doing the measuring and drafting I slowly got more duties, like actually organizing all the construction documents. There’s so much into that… every detail…Every material and every size. And even all the detail notes. You have to put everything that will be helpful for anyone to understand.
He knew that I did go to school for that, but he didn’t have to see too much of my work. He trusted it already. He was the first architect I’ve ever worked for and I’m the first person he’s ever hired. It was another person I got to grow with and to learn together.
So, after talking about both of your jobs. If you were to pick your favorite part of working at Cookie Bar and your favorite part of working for the architect, what would each be?
There’s so much I can pick from. It changes often too. For the most part, working at Cookie Bar and for the bosses I have, it’s really just seeing it grow. Being part of its success and its failures. We help each other.
For the architect, I just really like looking at houses. That’s really cool to me. But, for the work part, it all ties back into my community. Working and growing in the place that raised me. All of his work is in Alameda. He doesn’t leave Alameda. It’s pretty cool working in places within my community that I’ve always seen and now I get to be a part of that. I’m learning a lot about myself, man.
Out of the two, which would you consider your passion project?
I think… Cookie Bar. Although working for the architect is what I studied and went to school for. Working at Cookie Bar I didn’t think I was going to be the manager. I always hoped going in I’d be something big, but I didn’t know I was really going to be the big one. It’s pretty cool… it’s my passion project. There’s always something I could help and work on for the company and myself… like guiding, managing, or more. I know nothing about being a manager. I just know what needs to get done and how I think it should be done.
Who do you look up to?
In work, my bosses. I respect them so much. They’re just like us. They’re just kids. They barely made it out of high school and then they knew the hustle. They continued to feed their hustle and pursued it all. With them, possibilities are endless. If you want to do it, then go do it and there’s always a way. There’s resources all around you. Your friends and family will support you.
They’re so positive and they have relationships with everyone. They collaborate with everyone.. With shoe stores, clothing stores, coffee shops, and even a football player.. Marshawn Lynch. I don’t know what else about them, but they’re somethin’.
You talk a lot about Alameda, why do you love it so much?
Personally, I like close-knit things. And Alameda itself already is since it is a really small island. Everyone knows everyone and some people think it’s bad. I think it’s cool. You just have extended neighbors everywhere. It’s like why not have a whole bunch of friends? Why not be friends with everyone? It’s a sentimental thing. I really like long-run things. Like I’ve had this jacket for 10 years and I could get a new jacket, but why? It’s been with me for this long.
When you’re older at like 85 and a cute grandma with all kinds of experience and wisdom where do you see yourself?
Well, 85. Hopefully, still around, haha. Somewhere with my future grandkids and hopefully still around my friend’s grandkids. So, there it is again my close-knittedness…wherever they are, I’m happy. For me personally, where everyone’s at, that’s where I’m at. I would not be mad if I’m still in Alameda. The city that raised me. I can try living somewhere else, but this is home.