Susan Merla & Jennifer Merla - The Nutty Baker

Susan Merla & Jennifer Merla - The Nutty Baker

by: Ilana ‘Sugar’ Laytart

I remember when I first laid my eyes on the sweet seductive treats of The Nutty Baker; They were a vendor at the Cannabis Compliance Conference in Rohnert Park last Spring. Before I walked up to the table, I promised myself to have no more than one of each kind, or else I’d be hovering their table all weekend long... Sugar does love her sugar! Our Northern California cannabis industry offers so many products to choose from, and it’s growing by the day, but when you can find one you like, it’s a very exciting moment. It’s like when you are in the middle of a first date and realize you want a second date. When you find out that a product you like was made by a local family-run business for almost a decade…that’s the jackpot! Cannabis consumers in Northern California, from my humble opinion, prefer to support local businesses with good-intentioned people behind it, who see the value of cannabis as medicine, not as just a commodity. It is my honor to share with you a little bit of the soul and family spirit behind The Nutty Baker. Now, let’s get nutty with Susan Merla, Head Baker, and her daughter, Jennifer, Director of Sales and Marketing at The Nutty Baker.

The Nutty Baker is a family-operated company by Susan and Jennifer Merla, a collaborative mother-daughter duo. Susan got her start in baking at a very young and was in the industry for several years before branching out. She is a mother of two and a grandmother of a beautiful little girl. She loves to garden and spend time with her granddaughter. She has always used cannabis as a medicine and believes it helps others, whereas western medicine does not. Jennifer got her start working in dispensaries and has been in the industry for 12 years. She has a charming 3-year-old daughter that she loves to spend time with. She loves the color purple and her dogs: Ruger and Violet. When these two aren't concurring the edible works, they spend a lot of time together because family is the most important thing to them.

 Tell us a little about the history of The Nutty Baker: How did it get started, and how was ‘The Nutty Baker’ name chosen? 

“The Nutty Baker was created after Susan left an exclusive baking job for a dispensary. Her and her son, Steven, started going out to make sales; while working at a dispensary full-time, Jennifer still managed to help with sales and packaging. When Jennifer had her daughter, she came on board full-time and together they brought The Nutty Baker to the next level. 

The name The Nutty Baker was actually Steven’s idea. During the holidays Susan would take a week off of work so she could bake, and it would get crazy! Her kids weren’t even allowed near the kitchen when she was baking. Steven has always called her the nutty baker so we thought it was time to make it official. We still get nutty from time to time.”

What is your favorite product in The Nutty Baker line? What is your most popular product? (Tell us about the flavors and potencies)

“Susan’s top two favorites are the Red Velvet Cake Truffles and the Peanut Butter Cups. They each have small doses, so it is much easier to manage. The Red Velvet Cake Truffles come in a pack of three at 35mg a piece; they are just so pretty, and who doesn’t love Red Velvet! Being a peanut butter and chocolate freak, Susan’s top contender are the Peanut Butter Cups. They are the perfect dose at 50mg. 

Jennifer absolutely loves the Caramel Corn! The 150mg bag is just the perfect amount. It’s always smart to start with a small handful, so that you don’t overdo it. The caramel and cannabis flavor make a tasty pairing, it’s a challenge just to stick to a small amount.

One of the most popular Nutty Baker products is the Assorted Rock Candies at 25mg each. They come in a 5-pack variety of yummy flavors; anywhere from Lemon, Watermelon, Orange-Pineapple, Raspberry Mist to Melon Margarita. The other top seller is the 200mg Brownies for those patients who have a higher tolerance. They are gooey and delicious!”

 

Have you seen changes in the Sonoma County cannabis industry since you started? Please explain.

“From what we have seen in the last 9 years, presentation, quality, variety, medicine and so much more has evolved. The packaging alone has been a creative and challenging process, from the laws to having a marketable design. We know things are going to change here very quickly and we want to be there when it all happens. Being in compliance will open new doors and opportunities for The Nutty Baker. We are excited about all the new opportunities coming our way!”

What do you love most about working in the cannabis industry? 

“The best thing about working in the cannabis industry is the unity and love. The compassion we have seen and experienced would never happen in any other industry. We have lost patients but we know we made their lives better with this amazing plant. It's not just a job, it's a culture, a lifestyle and it's all about love and light. 

We hate to see patients resorting to other medicines that don’t/won’t work. Rather than sticking to Western medicine practices, we prefer the healing of medicinal cannabis. It wasn’t until we started The Nutty Baker that we truly understood the power of medicinal cannabis!”

The cannabis industry is in a state of fast-paced change and growth right now - what would you like to see in the future of cannabis?

“So much has changed for us over the past few years and it’s been exciting! We would love to have a store-front bakery, and be able to provide comfort to those in need more easily would be the most rewarding. The cannabis movement has evolved. From out of the woods and into the future!”

Elle Yung - SC Labs

Elle Yung - SC Labs

The history of cannabis in California is based on activism and compassion - compassion for patients with medical needs, and activism to fight prohibition and bring justice to those affected by the drug war. When you look at the timeline of when cannabis became an ‘industry’, it is easily identified as a new industry, an industry in its infancy. We are amidst a shift away from the culturally embedded black market, to a safe, respected and important industry that has a potential like no other when it comes to boosting the economy and creating tax revenue. 

It takes a lot of passion, patience and grace to have a career in the cannabis industry. This is why women are not only necessary in the making of a successful industry, but also why businesses with women on the team have shown to be more successful than those that do not. When I think of activism and compassion in the cannabis industry, I think of Elle Yung, Regional Account Manager at SC Laboratories, here in Santa Rosa. Elle is not only behind-the-scenes building this industry into a professional, respectable one, she is also on the frontline.

Elle Yung grew up in Los Angeles and relocated to Mendocino County in 2001 where she began cultivating. After 10 years of being in the shadows, she began working for a local tech firm. In 2012, she found herself back in the industry she knew and loved, and landed at Mercy Wellness of Cotati.

Tawnie Logan - Sonoma County Growers Alliance

Tawnie Logan - Sonoma County Growers Alliance

When I think about the cannabis industry, I immediately think of all the people who have sacrificed and dedicated their lives to get to where we are today. California has deep roots in the cannabis culture, as agriculture, and as herbal medicine. It has inspired the creation of music, art, and a community service-oriented lifestyle. Who are the people continuing this ancient practice cultivating this medicinal plant with deep historical roots? Sonoma County holds generations of these plant protectors, also known as Cultivators. As we fight to tear down prohibition and create safe, supportive regulations for this fast growing industry, we have to acknowledge those that lead the path and our community to represent and protect our local cultivators. Look no further than Tawnie Logan when giving thanks to local leaders who represent and protect those who have taken care of our powerful cannabis plant.

For 15 years, Tawnie has been active in organic and sustainable agricultural including the cannabis industry. Her commitment to expanding the education and implementation of best management practices for the environment and end user founded the Sonoma County Growers Alliance.

Laurel Gregory - The Hybrid Creative

Laurel Gregory - The Hybrid Creative

Artists curate and choreograph experiences. Artists create stories. In business terminology, they create brands. Branding your company is a necessity for business success. Brands have the ability to divert focus, pause time, evoke emotion, transform thought and start conversation. It is the artists behind the brand that make it come to life. Building your business means building your brand, and building your brand means: you’ll need an artist, therefore, artists create industries! Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the hard work and brilliance of Laurel Gregory, one of our local professional artists who is on the ground floor, turning cannabis into an industry.
 

Laurel Gregory has been an artist since a young age, when she first discovered drawing and music. In addition to her position as the Creative Director of the Santa Rosa based Cannabis Design Agency, The Hybrid Creative, she is also the Creative Director and Production Manager at a North Bay design & development agency, ZDCA Design & Development.

Lynnette Shaw

Lynnette Shaw

Lynnette Shaw opened the first medical cannabis dispensary after prop 215 passed in 1996. Her dispensary, Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, was always in full compliance, but was also the first to be targeted by Federal Government.

She won her case in April 2016, and in a statement following the ruling, Lynnette said, “After over 100 hearings throughout the past 18 years, we won our case in the name of the truth, medical rights, civil rights, and the Constitution. Licensed dispensaries are all my godchildren and I am proud that we have protected every dispensary in the nation with this ruling.”