Employee Owner Spotlight: Emily Cernusak

Since 1983, Zachary’s has been making award-winning pizza in the San Francisco Bay Area. When Zachary’s founders, Zach Zachowski and Barbara Gabel decided to retire, they handed the company over to the employees via an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). In 2010, Zachary’s became 100% employee owned.

This month’s spotlight, Emily Cernusak, went from Zachary’s customer to Employee Owner after deciding she liked the energy and teamwork of the crew. Though she’s only been here for a little over a year, Emily lights up the dining room with her enthusiasm and exuberance. Though she loves many aspects of Zachary’s (such as the food and being an owner), it’s the people who make her look forward to coming to work every day.



Name: Emily Cernusak

Hire Date: November 2018

Fave Pizza: Spinach and Mushroom with pesto

Fave Food (Other than pizza): A really good taco

Home Restaurant: Oakland, College Avenue

Favorite Activities: Travelling, hiking, backpacking, spending time with friends and family

Favorite Travel Location: Alaska



*Emily was interviewed by Zachary’s Marketing Manager, Robin Smith on February 2, 2020

Robin (R): Hello, Emily! Thanks for sitting down with me!

Emily (E): Hi, Robin! You’re welcome [Both laugh]

R: Let’s go ahead and get started super easy. When did you start at Zachary’s?

E: I started a little over a year ago, in November 2018

R: What brought you to Zachary’s?

E: You know, I had been a customer here for many, many years and when I decided I wanted to have a serving job it was the very first place that popped into my mind. I feel like the energy was just always really positive and upbeat whenever I was [here] as a customer and employees always looked like they were having fun. I loved how I saw them work together as a team and I really wanted to be a part of that, so it was really, you know, my only top choice. I did interview at one other place, but it didn’t hold a candle.

R: Awesome, I like to hear that! What is a favorite aspect of yours of working at Zachary’s and what keeps you engaged in the day-to-day?

E: A favorite aspect of working at Zachary’s, it has to be the people. People are always happy to be here. They know they’re going to get something amazing, you know, a lot of them have been looking forward to it, maybe traveled to get here, and especially if they’re first time Zachary’s customers, it’s so fun to see how excited they are to try it. It’s like, people are generally in a good mood and I love that. And I love helping people have an even better time than they’re already having, so yeah, that’s what I love about it. There was a second part to the question?

R: What keeps you engaged in the day-to-day? Like engaged and interested in the job?

E: Engaged and interested…it’s just finding how I can connect to people– the people that I work with, and how we can support each other. It feels like there’s a bond that grows naturally out of working together as a team, especially if it’s really busy and we’re all, you know, bustling and looking to help all the gears move smoothly so that things get taken care of. I feel that there’s sort of an awareness in me that grows in my capacity to notice what coworkers need in terms of support and what customers need and anticipating needs. And so I think that, that I love the fact that’s growing. In the beginning all I knew how to do was help people at the counter, you know, so that was my awareness, there were like these other things happening, but as I’ve been here longer and my awareness grows, I can be more aware of what’s happening in the whole restaurant and also notice, “oh, hey, they need some help on the floor, I can pop out there, I have a minute,” and support somebody, and that feels really good.

R: I like that. That’s also important, I agree. That’s something that keeps me engaged. So, you just passed a year, which means you’re officially eligible for the ESOP, correct?

E: Correct.

R: So, as a new ESOP member, what does being an Employee Owner mean for you?

E: I think it brings a different level of consideration to so many things about the job, recognizing that the people you work with, you know, we’re all invested in the company doing well and it’s, it’s for the business, but it’s also for us and for each other. And so, I think it carries, you know, just a little more weight in terms of wanting to know things are done right and that we’re conserving where we can and that we’re making the most out of every salad ingredient we have, all the way around.

R: Zero waste.

E: Exactly, zero waste. And, you know, all the different community outreach and recognizing the way word is spreading about Zachary’s as we open new locations. I’ve always felt a part of the team here, but knowing that I am already on my way to being even more invested in the financial success is really exciting.

R: It’s like “how am I going to help this company succeed so I can succeed.” Ok, fun questions, what is a favorite memory you have of Zachary’s/at Zachary’s/about Zachary’s?

E: Let’s see…oh my gosh, there are so many fun memories. This is a fun slash funny memory. I happened to be one of the servers here when there was a rolling power outage and so, it was, you know, in the evening, and all of a sudden the lights went out, the power went out and we had two tables here eating their pizza and one of the tables said, “well we’re here because the power is out at home, so we don’t really mind!” So helping them, in candle light, will always stand out to me.

R: That’s awesome.

E: And they finished eating. And, for a moment it was really overwhelming, to like write down the price of every ingredient they had and add it all up and bring them their check, but also it was really satisfying, like the sense that we’re all a part of this community.

R: I love that. We’re all a part of a community and no one has power.

E: Right, that’s right. [Both laugh]

R: So what are your hobbies or interests or things you like to do when you’re not at Zachary’s?

E: I love to travel. I love road trips. I love hiking and backpacking. Any time I can be out in nature and around trees or the water or the ocean. Spending time with family and friends and all that.

R: What’s one of your favorite places you’ve taken a road trip to or traveled to? Or both?

E: Oh, road trip or travel…well I recently went to Alaska for the first time and that was amazing. I went to see a friend up there and I was just….it was so unexpected in so many ways, the way the mountains just jut right up out of the ocean. Where we are in California, you have to go inland a little to get to the mountains, and there, they just come straight up out of the water. It was just breathtakingly beautiful. And the way the trees…there was just such a different mix of forest, you know, when I’m here and I go up in the mountains, it’s mostly evergreens and there it was all this mix of ferns and deciduous trees and really lush, all along with evergreens that I wasn’t expecting. And seeing moose in the neighbor’s yard was, like, so incredible. And fun. And I just had a feeling of I really know I’m alive here. I feel so energized and awake. It felt great.

R: Connected to the world.

E: Yeah, and just seeing things that are different. The other thing that was amazing was, I was there at the end of August, so there was still a ton of daylight and the flowers were gigantic. In people’s yards, the gardens in downtown Anchorage were these huge overflowing baskets of flowers everywhere…they grow so big because there’s so much daylight! And I never thought about that but it was really, really fun and beautiful.

R: Yeah, I never would have thought about that either…the amount of daylight they get, they have more growth time. Alright, last question that I have for you is, what do you love about the Bay Area?

E: What I love about the Bay Area is such a richness of experiences and people. I feel like there’s a friendliness and sense of community in being in this world altogether. I love meeting people from all over the world who live here or who are travelling here and the way that all those beautiful differences come together and yet there’s just an understanding that we’re all in this together; we’re all a part of this greater whole. And I don’t always get that feeling everywhere I travel, so I feel like it’s something really special about the Bay.

R: I completely agree.

E: There’s a vibrancy, too. I feel like an interest in being creative in different ways and, you know, helping share our music and art with each other, with anyone who wants to listen, basically.

R: I call it, like an openness to creativity. However you can find to be creative, the Bay is going to welcome that creativity, even if it’s some weird off-the-wall way, the Bay is going to be like, “oh, we’ll take it, bring it…”

E: “Show us! More! Bring it on!”

R: Do you have anything you’d like to add on?

E: Um, I really do just want to say, I have been a part of so many different organizations and companies, you know, through different school settings and work settings and I feel like there’s something really special about Zachary’s…about the way that things are run and, you know, maybe this just touches on the earlier question of being an Employee Owner as well, but there’s such a care and attention to helping everybody know that we’re all here to support you in succeeding. Like every new person gets that feeling. And it’s like, having, whether it’s two or five or 15 people who’ve got your back, whatever you’re doing, we all have each other’s back, like that just makes a really big difference in my day and there has literally not been a day when I’ve felt like “oh, I don’t want to go to work.”  I love coming here. All the time.

R: That makes me so happy! Awesome! Well thank you so much! I got a little warm spot in my heart.

E: Awwwww [Both laugh]

R: Thank you so much for chatting with me!