Students showcase leadership with family business: Benji Nio, Esther’s Bakery

Alex Dersh

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Written by Alex Dersh

Esther’s German Bakery is a family-owned bakery located on San Antonio Road in Los Altos. Started in 2004, they sell traditional German pastries and baked goods using healthy and wholesome ingredients. The namesake of the restaurant is Esther Nio, the mother of sophomore David Nio, senior Benji Nio and Gunn alumnus Sammy Nio.

The idea for the bakery was born out of the longing Esther and her husband Robert had for traditional German bread she had growing up in Germany. “We realized that we really miss German bread, so we opened a bakery,” she said. “I said, ‘I really miss my pretzels and real wholesome bread,’ and we said, ‘Why not bring it here? Why not just start [a bakery]?’”

Her son Sammy works at the bakery now. As an employee of his mother and having grown up around a family business, Sammy feels that he understands more about running a small business than the average student does. “I’ve been able to see the background of what goes on in owning a small business,” he said. “I get to see how stressful that actually is and all the different things that go into it, and what kind of problems that arise.”

Benji remembers growing up in the bakery’s early days, and enjoys being part of the company, recalling fondly that “we [would] always bring [home] the leftover bread and pastries; we all grew up with that.”

The effort and determination needed to start a small business is not lost on the Nios. Benji is appreciative of how well his family has done as immigrants to the United States. “I’m really proud of how successful it is and I’m really proud of my parents for moving from Germany to the U.S. and living the American dream,” he said.

Esther recognizes the risk she took in trying to make her dreams a reality. “We were so courageous to do it without being bakers that we just jumped into the cold water and just did it and risked everything,” she said. “I’m proud that it’s working and I’m proud that it’s successful.”

The bakery’s success has meant they have worked with big name companies. Sammy recalled that Google was a customer, as well as a certain well-known Silicon Valley executive. “We’ve [had] Mark Zuckerberg come in and do a deal,” he said. “They actually did the WhatsApp deal, where Facebook bought WhatsApp, that actually happened in our bakery.” 

This kind of celebrity draw makes Sammy happy to see how far his parents have come. “That was pretty amazing to see that happen,” he said. “I can still remember [my parents] talking about potential ideas about business, and now seeing this one having bloomed into what it is.”