Nosh has a monthly cookie club, where two dozen cookies are delivered to your door on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on July 6, 2022. We republished the story on July 25, 2022 because Nosh is now open.

Tina Marie Wilken bakes to connect people.

Her Stollen — an elaborate Christmas bread shaped to signify baby Jesus — made her German mother-in-law’s holiday last year.

This Juneteenth, she made a cake using 7Up, based on a family recipe, to share at a party. Its unique flavor — one you can’t find at most bakeries or grocery stores — brought back memories of grandmas in kitchens, family reunions and barbecues.

She’s an effusive person, someone who grew up aspiring to be a humanitarian attorney to help people, before realizing there are many more ways to achieve that purpose. A self-identified “recovering people pleaser,” she corrected herself during our interview to declare she is doing something, rather than trying to do it. Caring is more than something she does, it’s who she is.

Her catering business, Nosh, quadrupled in size while she was still working as a freelance consultant helping small-business owners launch their products.

“It practically happened by accident. I was slowly putting myself out there, building an organic following, and it just blew up,” she said.

This month, that catering company is expanding into its very own cafe. Her menu will center catering favorites, like a slew of inventive cheesecakes and her not-too-sweet cookies, while expanding to include teatime favorites like scones and patisserie, croissants and pain au chocolat.

The concept for a cafe grew out of her catering company’s burgeoning need for a commercial kitchen. When she found the space at 4695 N. Oracle Road, she realized she had the opportunity to do more than upgrade her capacity, but also create a community space.

“I feel like I can make any concept successful,” she said. “But food is a passion; it’s a central theme in my life, it brings people together.”

Tina Marie Wilken’s favorite menu items are her cheesecakes, with inventive flavors from caramel apple pecan (pictured), to peanut butter dream.

At Nosh, she will share her space with consignment vendors. Love in a Cup, a tea studio with custom blends, will contribute to Nosh’s tea menu and perhaps infuse flavors into pastries like scones. Knotted by Kiwi is a macrame artist whose works will adorn the walls and be available for purchase.

These consignment vendors are part of a larger Blax Friday network, launched online in 2020 to support Black-owned businesses across Arizona.

“I’m half-Black and half-Korean, food is such a big part of social events (in both cultures),” she said. “I want to instill this in our company. We’re selling experiences, selling happiness. We want the bakery to be a positive environment, where people feel welcome and comfortable.”

When she says people, she means her employees just as much as her customers. Since age 17, when she started as a hostess at Outback Steakhouse, Tina Marie has worked every job in the industry — from bartending to bookkeeping. She knows what it means to be a good boss because she has worked for nearly two decades on both sides of that power dynamic.

Cupcakes, including a churro option, are the backbone of Nosh’s events menu.

To Tina Marie, it’s good business to make employees happy, to retain them.

“If I pay people well, treat them with respect, and empower them to make their own decisions, I’m not going to have a lot of turnover,” she said.

“Back when I worked, especially with corporate ... I gave suggestions to management to make things easier or to give the customer a better experience, it was always shut down,” she said. She wants her team to feel empowered to make their own choices for the business.

“Work less, but better,” she said. “Work smarter. We don’t have to take extra steps if we don’t need to.”

She will split tips between both front and back of house, but she doesn’t want anyone needing to depend on them for income. “I’ll pay above average so tips can be a bonus,” she said.

In order to accommodate higher pay in an industry with notoriously tight margins, Tina Marie aspires to incorporate as many revenue streams as possible, from renting the space as a venue for bridal showers and networking events, to selling the homemade ingredients like vanilla extract she makes from scratch and uses in her baked goods. Her innovation doesn’t end there.

“Instead of doing discounts for holidays, which you see a lot in retail,” she said, “I’m encouraging (employees) to create relationships with regulars.” Each employee will have $20 of discounts that they can use for customers each shift.

“If (an employee wants) to treat this person and make their day, or offer someone a cookie if they’re having a bad day, (they can do it). Whatever makes someone smile when they leave.”

Nosh Tucson

Location: 4695 N. Oracle Road

For more information, check out their website or Instagram.

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