TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Two women wear aprons as they blend smoothies and chat, laugh and take paninis off the press. Sydney wears a pink-checkered apron, and Margaretha ties one on with red floral print. The business partners say the old-fashioned outfits make them feel “old school.”
“It feels like we’re working at home,” said Margaretha.
Margaretha vonWelczeck and Sydney Earley first met in a professional setting, although most times the women caught up was at soccer games or the grocery store.
Both Margaretha and Sydney have more than 25 years culinary experience and are raising teenage boys. The women know how to take care of a family and how to run a business.
“We are both moms, involved with our families,” Sydney said. “It’s a great partnership where we can job share and be creative.”
GOOD-FOR-YOU FAST FOOD
Sydney and Margaretha run Picnic — a fresh salad and seasonal food option in Tahoe City. Sydney decided to change the business from Tootsie’s, an ice cream shop, to a restaurant. Frozen treats at Tootsie’s didn’t offer enough diversity for a year round shop.
“It’s a great location and I really wanted to do a salad idea because I thought there was a hole in the community,” Sydney said.
The women don’t consider Picnic to be fast food, but fresh food that’s convenient and quick.
“It’s good fast food,” said Margaretha. “Grab and go to the beach, grab and go on the boat, go skiing or on a hike.”
Miaja Lopez and Monica Chavez frequent Picnic after going to the gym or before a day hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail. The girls prefer to have Picnic prepare their picnic for the day.
“It’s nice to have fast food that’s good,” said Miaja. “A one stop shop for something.” Miaja and Monica usually order a smoothie and a sandwich. The girls share favorite hiking trails and a few laughs with the two women in aprons.
Change with the Seasons
Margaretha changes the menu daily. Picnic’s six signature items — baguette, flatbread, salad, Panini, sweet, and soup — are different every day and change based on what is in season.
“I like going to the farmers’ market and seeing what looks good,” said Margaretha. “I’m having a ton of fun.”
The chef plans to bring more soups and stews to the menu this winter, when fixings for summer salads are no longer in season.
Margaretha and Sydney are also mindful about different diets and make sure to offer vegan and gluten free options each day.
“Locals have come to trust our choices,” Sydney said. “We don’t really have a printed menu.”
DOING IT ALL
The struggles both women face running a small business can often conflict with running a household. Both at home and at work, Sydney and Margaretha are in demand.
“Being self employed and having a business is like having a child,” Sydney said. “A child that’s always five years old.” The list of chores at both places never seems to shorten; Sydney described it as “an inbox that’s always full.”
“It’s a juggle,” she said. “As every working mom has to juggle.”
The partners and friends support each other through the challenges and pressures of feeling like they “have to do it all.”
“You have to have a career, be a great mom, plus look good,” said Margaretha. “Some women may do it all, but they’re probably really stressed out,” she added with a laugh.
Although often very demanding, Picnic offers both moms a creative outlet.
Sydney and Margaretha research new recipes and decorative ideas for Picnic. Margaretha said she often times gets burned out on going to the grocery store, but “never get(s) burned out on cooking.”
Sydney and Margaretha can be found cooking and chatting in their brightly colored aprons Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. in the Safeway Shopping Center in Tahoe City.
“It’s a great partnership where we can job share and be creative.”