‘It’s who we are’: LGBTQ+-owned businesses celebrate Pride

photo of boichik bagels
Caroline Lobel/Senior Staff
In Berkeley, many businesses owned by LGBTQ+ people are celebrating Pride Month, including Boichik Bagels and Third Culture Bakery.

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LGBTQ+-owned businesses in Berkeley are celebrating Pride Month in a variety of ways this June.

Emily Winston, founder and owner of Boichik Bagels, started her business in late 2019. Winston began bagel-making to recreate the “beloved bagel” she grew up eating in New Jersey. Inspired by her hobby and the food entrepreneurship scene in the Bay Area, Winston turned her bagel-making hobby into a business.

Boichik Bagels has become a “beloved” institution in just a couple years, according to Winston. Whether it be regulars or ex-East Coasters coming to get their fix, the bagels have become a meaningful part of the community.

“Getting that taste of home is a big deal for people’s psyches,” Winston said. “It’s really cool we’re able to provide that for so many people.”

Winston said she makes it known that Boichik Bagels is “unapologetically” Jewish, gay-owned and women-owned. To Winston, the different sectors of her identity is who she is, and Boichik Bagels celebrates diversity.

Winston noted that there could not be a more diverse place than Berkeley and the surrounding Bay Area. She did not intend to start Boichik Bagels in Berkeley but values being out and visible regardless.

Another LGBTQ+ business owner, Third Culture Bakery brand director Wenter Shyu co-founded the bakery with his husband, Sam Butarbutar.

According to Shyu, Butarbutar began making their signature mochi muffins in 2014 as a one-man bakery doing pop-ups around Berkeley. Third Culture Bakery, however, officially opened in 2017, born from Shyu and Butarbutar’s love story.

Shyu noted that having their queer identity tied into the business makes patrons feel represented and validated coming through their doors.

Being Asian and queer, advocacy is year-round for the Third Culture couple, Shyu said.

“We know how it is operating in a system that wasn’t really built for us in the first place,” Shyu said. “We’re operating that system, so we definitely have to contribute or give back to whatever we can.”

The Third Culture couple has sought to advocate for the different sectors of their identities. Third Culture donated to funds for queer and trans people facing financial and medical hardship throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Shyu.

He added that they began assembling and donating personal safety kits when the attacks on Asian American and Pacific Islander elders began in 2021. As of last year, Third Culture has distributed over 22,000 safety kits and continues to do so.

To both Winston and Shyu, transparency and diversity are important components of their businesses’ identities. However, visibly embracing their marginalized identities comes with challenges.

“There are a lot of people that don’t agree with our messaging and would rather see us fail,” Shyu said. “As queer people we learn from a young age to stand up for ourselves.”

Both businesses are reaching out to various organizations and participating in different events to celebrate this year’s Pride Month.

Winston said Boichik Bagels has been reaching out to different organizations to offer free bagels this month.

At Third Culture Bakery, Shyu noted that they are celebrating with an assortment of events, including pop-ups, drag queen performances, community engagement and donations. According to Shyu, Third Culture will be hosting a pride doggy parade with Berkeley Humane on Sunday.

Beyond celebrating and having fun with the surrounding community, Shyu noted the importance of recognizing the origins of Pride at the Stonewall Inn, where New York City police raided a gay club and sparked riots June 28, 1969.

“As a bakery and a company that is leading with that identity it is hard but we know that it is the right thing,” Shyu said. “It’s who we are and no one can take that away from us.”

Contact Maya Banuelos at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @mayambanuelos.