After 40 years in business, Acadian Bakery owner Sandy Bubbert is in the process of selling her beloved bakery and sandwich shop. The closing is expected to occur early in December, and Bubbert will then stay on for 15 days to help transition the business to its new owner, a young baker who has been running a baking business out of her home.
“It’s been a long, good ride,” says Bubbert. “But I’m 75 and I’ve been at this for 40 years. It’s time for this cowgirl to ride off.” She looks forward to spending more time pursuing her personal passion for writing.
Bubbert’s retail store on West Alabama features soups, salads, and sandwiches along with a wide variety of cakes, cookies, tarts, and other desserts. She also services commercial customers. The sale will include all the physical assets of the business, her recipes, and a commercial customer base.
Sports, Music, and Cooking
Although Bubbert recently celebrated her 75th birthday, she is glad that she doesn’t feel any older. “It’s just a number,” she says.
Bubbert was born and raised in Fort Worth. Her father was a Marine, and the family moved around a lot. At one point, her father was stationed in Guantánamo, Cuba, and the family had to evacuate during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
An athletic youngster and teenager, Bubbert ran track and played on the basketball team in high school. “I also liked softball and powder-puff football. We were supposed to pull little pink rags out of each other’s back pockets, but we preferred to tackle. I always played quarterback,” she says.
Music was an important part of Bubbert’s life. Her mother was a former touring singer and had a Saturday TV show at the local station. “I remember watching her on the little tiny screen of our early television set. My sisters Sharon and Jan and I also formed a girl group called The Hayes Sisters and we took to the road on and off, singing current rock and folk music.”
Bubbert went to college in New Mexico, studying liberal arts. She then moved to New York to live with one of her sisters who had become an Eastern Airlines stewardess. After signing up for the military to serve her country, Bubbert moved to Houston because another sister lived here and it seemed like a city that was full of opportunities.
From an early age, Bubbert loved to cook. “My mother was a good cook, but my grandmother was a great cook. Those sugar cookies in the front display case are from her recipe—lots of cinnamon and butter!”
Bubbert went to work for a Houston caterer before taking a position at Acadian Bakery, which was owned by two gay men. “They had a wonderful bakery, and I helped them diversify by adding lunch meals to their products.”
A Budding Businesswoman
In 1979, Bubbert bought the Acadian Bakery when the two owners decided to move to Louisiana. “They told me they would teach me how to bake cakes,” she remembers. “They told me it was easy. Well, don’t let anyone kid you. It isn’t! You must be very careful—you can have 40 pounds of flour, 70 eggs, and 6 pounds of butter in a big bowl, but if you don’t mix it correctly, you’ve just lost 40 pounds’ worth of cakes.”
During the 1980s, Bubbert also owned a small restaurant called Sandy’s Tearoom in the 1700 block of Bissonnet, serving homemade food with a salad bar. She owned another shop in Pearland called Sweets and Eats. On Thanksgiving Day 1997, an electrical fire gutted her Acadian Bakery and destroyed the family cookbooks. The bakery was rebuilt and enlarged.
Thinking back to earlier days, Bubbert remembers many of Houston’s gay hospitality icons whom she loved and partied with. “We had a lot of talent in our community, but we lost so much of it to AIDS.”
While Bubbert has talents that span the spectrum of the culinary field, she is best known for her cakes. The walls of her store are filled with photographs of specialty cakes from over the years, as well as pictures of her famous clients.
Many local oil companies contract with Bubbert to supply them with personalized birthday cakes for their employees. “We were hit hard when Enron closed down—they had 40,000 employees and we supplied all the birthday cakes,” she says. Every business day, Bubbert delivers a fresh new batch of cakes to corporate clients.
During the 1988 Texas gubernatorial race, candidate Ann Richards sampled one of Bubbert’s cakes at a fundraiser. When Richards needed a cake for her 1989 inauguration in Austin, she turned to Bubbert. “We made a cake for over 500 people, shaped like the State Capitol. We put it into our truck and drove—at a crawl—to Austin. I didn’t want to leave the cake overnight, so I slept in the truck cab all night in a hotel parking garage.”
Bubbert thinks back on famous clients like Shirley MacLaine, Reba McEntire, Judith Light, Anne Rice, Elizabeth Taylor, and Barbara Bush. When President George H.W. Bush held the G7 Summit in Houston in 1990, Bubbert was chosen to prepare cakes for a huge dinner in the Astrodome. “We created cakes [that had] significance for each country—for example, German chocolate cake for Germany,” she says.
Bubbert is well-known for her king cakes, baked during the Mardi Gras party season. “This year we baked 5,000!” she says. Her cakes come with a variety of fillings—raspberry, crème cheese, lemon curd, chocolate mousse, pralines and cream, raspberry and cream, and strawberry and cream.
A Community Icon
Bubbert has not only run successful businesses for more than 40 years, but has also given freely to help Houston’s LGBTQ community. She was an original board member of the Montrose Counseling Center, which is now the Montrose Center.
The late Pat Petty, co-founder of Miss Camp America pageant, said of Bubbert: “I have known Sandy for about 35 years. She never meets a stranger. When we went on an R.S.V.P. cruise several years ago, she knew every male and female on the ship within three days—and was buying them a cocktail. That good old Southern charm just oozes from her pores. Sandy is a true Southern belle and, I am proud to say, a very good friend.”
Bubbert was also involved as a member of The Dianas organization for 15 years, and has served as a vice-president. One year she was awarded a Diana for Best Supported Actor, followed a year later by a Best Actor award. She won’t disclose the infamous trespasses that landed her the two statuettes.
OutSmart readers have voted to honor Bubbert with numerous Gayest and Greatest Awards over the years. The bakery has also been honored by the Houston Press, Talk of the Town, and the Zagat Survey.
Bubbert was a member of the Executive and Professional Association of Houston (EPAH) for several years. Cindy Cuellar, a past EPAH president recalls the anniversary cakes that Bubbert made for EPAH. ”I love Sandy. She has always gone that extra mile for EPAH and its members. She makes the best cakes and pastries in the world! She loves what she does, and it shows. She is such an asset to our community.”
The Houston Women’s Center is another important organization in Bubbert’s life. “I’ve worked the crisis lines before, and the calls can be heartbreaking,” she says. For years Bubbert baked for the Decadent Desserts fundraiser for AssistHers, an organization that helps lesbians cope with life-threatening illnesses.
Community activist Deborah Bell speaks to Bubbert’s culinary skills and her compassion: “I personally am a huge fan of the Italian crème cake—and I am not particularly a cake person. I can also attest to Sandy’s kindness and generosity. When my former partner’s grandmother passed away, we needed to find a home for her ancient miniature poodle. Sandy took Snookie in and cared for her during the few more months she lived. I was very touched by that kind of compassion.”
Former Houston mayor and longtime Acadian Bakery customer Annise Parker also speaks highly of Bubbert. “She is a good businesswoman, a great supporter of the community, and she makes outstanding cakes. I am a particular fan of Sandy’s Italian crème cake.” When Parker married her partner, Kathy Hubbard, in 2014, Bubbert baked an Italian crème cake for the wedding reception.
Bubbert has also provided cookie and cake donations on an annual basis to the HATCH Prom, Bering Memorial United Methodist Church, Omega House, Kindred Spirits, LOAF (Lesbians Over Age Fifty), and for homeless veterans.
The Power of Love and Faith
With such intense professional and community involvement, it’s somewhat of a wonder that Bubbert has ever found time for a personal life. But she and Emily Jane Japhet were partners for nearly three decades. “I met Emily on August 8, 1978, at Marion & Lynn’s club,” Bubbert recalls with fondness. Japhet suffered a series of strokes, and eventually entered a nursing home before her death.
During the 1980s, Bubbert and Japhet had businesses side-by-side on Bissonnet. “She owned Emily Jane’s Flower Shop and I owned Sandy’s Tearoom,” she recalls. Late in that decade, Japhet suffered her first stroke. “People told me she would never walk or talk again. But I worked with her for over two years, and she did both, although she never regained much ability to use her left side.”
Thinking back to her childhood, Bubbert says she knew she was a lesbian as early as 4 or 5. “I used to fall in love with my babysitters,” she laughs. “And of course, with my physical education teachers in high school—all lesbians did!”
Bubbert says she never had to come out to her family. “In the South, there are some things that people just don’t bother to talk about,” she notes. “You can say things discreetly. For example, people thought of me as ‘athletic’ and ‘a woman who dresses conservatively’. That was all they needed to know.”
Religious faith is central to Bubbert’s life. Although not a cradle Catholic, she attended Holy Rosary Church in Midtown for two decades before gravitating to All Saints Church in the Heights. She eventually became a confirmed member of the Catholic Church.
Like all business owners, Bubbert rides the economic waves. But she says she usually isn’t hit as hard as other businesses when there is a downturn. “My grandfather used to tell me that when things get tight, there are still two things that people will always spend money on: whiskey and sweets. I’m glad I decided a long time ago to sell sweets. A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.”
604 W. Alabama, (713) 520-1484