Photo courtesy of South by Southwest

Wunderkeks, a gay and immigrant-owned cookie company with a staggering amount of depth for something that could be sold on sugar content alone, has been showered with praise in the last three years. And it’s fundraising for another push into the stratosphere.

To recap, this brand almost folded the year South by Southwest (SXSW) got canceled out of concern for the pandemic. They made some famous friends, and won audiences over with earnest branding (and to-die-for chocolate chip cookies). They went to the Oscars, partnered with an increasingly impactful music festival, created a recipe with actress Tori Spelling, won a prestigious award from the Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and still had time to produce tons of cookies. Luis Gramajo and Hans Schrei, co-founders and recipe developers, are among the Pastry Chef of the Year nominees for CultureMap's 2023 Tastemaker Awards.

This year the brand came full-circle with a panel at SXSW 2023 discussing safe spaces with VP of Communications at Virgin Atlantic Laura Brander, lead singer of Neon Trees Tyler Glenn, and the first openly gay statewide officer in Pennsylvania, Brian Sims. This topic has been central to Wunderkeks’ impact, and has elevated the company beyond a snack brand.

It turns out, not even the sky’s the limit for this married duo, whose cookies are soon to be warmed up and passed out on all outbound Virgin Atlantic flights (making these, unofficially, the best airplane snacks anyone has tasted) — if they can get the funding. Despite Wunderkeks’ meteoric success, it’ll take a little more than some careful planning to increase production and distribution by 100,000 cookies per month.

That’s the initial volume needed to get the partnership off the ground. Wunderkeks also hopes to offer a similar partnership to Delta, Virgin Atlantic’s U.S. partner, which the founders say would add up to "millions of people daily being touched by our message of building Safe Spaces."

Virgin Atlantic made news in 2022 for allowing cabin crew to choose the uniforms that best suit their gender identities. This made the company a great example for the panel — mostly building on ideas about making staff feel at home and enabling them to redirect their energy from suppressing self-expression to supporting guests — but also a corporate soulmate for the young retailers.

Gramajo, who moderated the panel, passed along the goodwill of Virgin Atlantic employees he interviewed when considering the partnership. Those employees had nothing to gain, he pointed out, in speaking highly of the company in private. They just felt seen.

Gramajo pointed out the similarities between this approach and the cookie brand’s, in all its pink glory. None of it was intentionally queer signaling. It wasn’t that Wunderkeks, itself, was queer.

“It’s that it’s us,” he concluded. “It’s amazing the energy that we waste when we code switch.”

Preserving that energy is also the purview of the Loveloud Festival, which another panelist, Tyler Glenn, founded with Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons to uplift LGBTQ+ youth in Utah. As a defected Mormon, Glenn was specifically pushing the boundaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Although he found the church much more powerful than he ever realized, the first years’ trials and tribulations paid off in an effusive show of love, support, and safe space for both the youth and their parents. Wunderkeks preaches the gospel of the tangible supportive atmosphere at the festival, and has previously partnered with Loveloud for joint branding on cookie boxes during pride month. A dollar from every box sold went to the foundation.

The third panelist did not represent any business partnerships, but he did articulate some of the day's most empowering messages from a perspective formerly inside the political beast. Brian Sims (D), now retired as a legislator, discussed largely Republican-led motivations of building momentum in transphobic attacks. Sims attributed an influx of trans-critical bills to a desire to separate the least vocally-supported and often the most politically-active portion of the gender and sexuality-diverse movement from the rest (the "T" from the "LGB").

Sims also shared a conversation he says he had with a Republican legislator about a similar effort, in which the legislator admitted he did not think the bill would ever pass. The panelist pointed out that such bills are often more about the showmanship than a desire to effect real change, but hopes that this chaos will lead to a strong pushback in the form of codifying protections that will put an end to copycat bills.

Wunderkeks needs $100,000 in this round of funding, lasting about two more weeks. This will get its cookies on flights and in the hands of cookie lovers and safe space champions in the air by April. The company is using Wefunder to sell future equity starting as low as $100-investments. In addition to the equity, there are tiered perks including a 10 percent discount, team T-shirt, and free cookies for a year. As of this writing, the current round has already reached $51,650 from a total of 30 investors.

More information about Wunderks, its business plan, and the terms of the future equity investments are available at wefunder.com.

Photo by Vincent Vallejo

Famous LGBTQIA+ barbershop from San Francisco starts shaving in Austin

Who's your daddy?

Daddy’s home! The barbershop from San Francisco opened a satellite out in Austin on February 3, marking the first time the LGBTQIA+ gathering place has moved out of California, from one queer haven to another, and closer to its founder's roots.

Few community spaces — queer or otherwise — have reached the heights of a barbershop, a site of physical and social betterment without any vices beyond a really good lather. But one of the things that makes the barbershop such a safe space is its niche clientele — men in the neighborhood. At Daddy’s Barbershop, doors are open to “Texans of all genders.”

Like many other queer staples, the first Daddy’s became popular in San Francisco. Dallas-born founder Arlen Lasater, who was already deeply entrenched in advocating for LGBTQ safety as a security director for the Folsom Street Fair, turned to barbering but kept his protective attitude, and people flocked to the diverse space. Now the barbershop is located in Palm Springs and Austin.

“I think it became a haven for LGBTQ+ locals,” said Lasater in a press release and on the Daddy’s website. “Most of the time, it feels more like a community hangout than a business.”

Terri and Timmy Lasater, Arlen’s niblings (that’s the gender-neutral term for your sibling’s kids), have also joined the business as co-owners and operators. They’re close to family in Houston and Austin (having worked in the latter for three decades) as well as good eats; The new barbershop tops Cisco's Restaurant Bakery & Bar on East 6th Street, known for Tex-Mex comfort foods and a retro diner atmosphere.

The building was constructed in 1914, and Daddy’s is using some historical materials to enhance the shop, including reclaimed wood from two fires: the Capitol fire of 1983, and the Texas French Bread fire in early 2022. Local artist and trans rights activist Xavier Schipani took care of exterior decor with a mural, while the interior remains sleek and semi-industrial.

“I’ve always considered Austin a sister city to San Francisco,” said Lasater. “Both have a prominent LGBTQ+ presence and a culture of radical acceptance — that’s a culture Daddy’s thrives in.”

Daddy’s is making sure to share that thriving spirit through community donations that have totaled at least $250,000 since its founding, for supporting LGBTQ+, homeless, and more local nonprofits.

“Arlen’s always been a part of keeping people safe,” said Terri Lasater. “Whether it’s through his work or donations, it's important that he does what he can to protect his community.”

Guests can expect the following services: “high-and-tight haircuts, beard/goatee trims, beard sculpting, hot towel shaves, bald/skin fades, buzzcuts, scissor cuts, gray-blending, line-ups, chest trims, back trims, clean-ups, and more.”

Daddy’s is open at 1511 E 6th Street, Monday through Saturday, from 10 am to 6 pm. More information, including links for booking and job applications, is available at daddysbarbershop.com.

Photo courtesy of aGLIFF

Austin queer film festival falls in love with Black stories for February mini-series

Doubly Proud

Representation matters, and Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) has been at it for 35 years. The flagship festival is months away — not even scheduled yet — but a February mini-series on February 16 will celebrate Black History Month in one 40-minute documentary and three award-winning short films at the intersections of Black and LGBTQIA+ identity.

The event, "Been Here: Queer, Black & Proud," is a collaboration between aGLIFF and _OFCOLOR, Beyond Brotha, JAT Creative, and the George Washington Carver Museum. The latter will host the screening, as well as a reception and performance by local drag performer Amber Nicole Davenport. Afterwards, there will be a discussion with director Nathan Hale Williams (All Boys Aren’t Blue) and community leaders.

All Boys Aren’t Blue (2021), the main billing, is based on a memoir and series of essays by George M. Johnson emphasizing “gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy,” according to a release about the event.

The documentary stages a reading by three actors who embody the author at different times, joined by singer and actress Jenifer Lewis. The story focuses on youth (Johnson is still only in their late 30s), and holds special value for younger audiences who may be navigating similar topics from childhood to college.

Three short films follow the main screening:

  • The Funnel(2022) takes place on the South Side of Chicago during a housing crisis, exploring topics about romance, ancestry and displacement. Trina, the main character, is a poet who views the experience through generations of women.
  • How Not To Date While Trans (2022) boldly chronicles the dating history of a Black trans woman. The 12-minute film colloquially packs in important context about the trans experience through Andie’s rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness narration to the audience.
  • Buffalo (2019) is written, produced, and portrayed by Paul Oakley Stovall (directed by Freddie Paull). The film turns the sexy delivery guy trope around into something sentimental and healing about a sexual awakening in the throes of grief.

The Funnel and How Not To Date While Trans are 2022 winners the Queer Black Voices Fund, aGLIFF's effort at responding to the 2020 police brutality protests and ongoing crisis. It aims to support "queer Black filmmakers, directors, writers, and actors," by ensuring that they are included annually in the organization's programming and lessening the financial load in applying and visiting Austin. The fund has raised nearly $20,000 by January of 2023.

Tickets (starting at $20 depending on date of purchase) for "Been Here: Queer, Black & Proud" are available at agliff.org. The screenings and surrounding events take place on February 16 from 6-9 pm at the George Washington Carver Museum.

Iconic Austin-area LGBTQ nightclub closes abruptly on New Year's Day

Closing Time

One of the first gay bars in San Marcos, Stonewall Warehouse, closed on New Year's Day. But employees said they did not get a heads up. It's a small bar in a small town with a huge impact.

"It almost feels like our childhood home is like being taken away," May Magdalene said.

Drag queens May Magdalene, Veronica Valentine, and Mars all got their start at Stonewall Warehouse on The Square.

"I moved to San Marcos, Texas State, and that was my first exploration and seeing this whole world of, you know, who I actually am and people that were like me as well," May Magdalene said.

It was a place not just for them, but for any young students trying to find themselves.

"You didn't even have to be a drag queen," Mars said. "Some people would just lip-sync to have fun."

The fun didn't end that way. The bar shut down abruptly on New Year's Day. The owner did not give the them a heads-up before selling it.

"They're not just bartenders to us," Mars said. "They're our family, to the whole staff. We're all really close to them. So, just that they all got laid off on New Year's Day was really hard."

The GoFundMe created by former manager Lena Jacobs makes for a softer landing. In less than 24 hours, they raised more than $5,000.

"Our sisters in New York are hearing about it," Mars said. "Everyone is posting on social media. We have been seeing the network that Stonewall created for itself."

"We have girls from 'RuPaul's Drag Race' posting the GoFundMe right now," May Magdalene added.

Jacobs decided to create the GoFundMe because the entire staff has been left "with no income right at the beginning of the month when bills and rent are due."

Bar owner Jamie Frailicks said that while it's great they have support, he wanted to make it clear: all employees are getting two weeks of pay and the manager received a "healthy amount of money."

Frailicks said the bar wasn't making money, and he didn't warn employees about the sale and closure because "ultimately the dangers and irresponsibility that come with a staff who may have 'nothing to lose' when it comes to running a bar properly would not have been in the best interests of the business, the staff, nor our customers."

The bar's supporters hope the next group of LGBTQ+ patrons can find another Stonewall to build a safe place to find themselves.

"It will be remembered for a very, very, very long time," Veronica Valentine said.

As part of the sale, Stonewall will be revamped and rebranded, according to Frailicks, who also released a full statement about the bar's closure.


Read the full statement and watch the video at KVUE.com.

Photo courtesy of Wunderkeks

Austin couple's cookie company wins prestigious award for baking up safe spaces

Smart Cookies

Wunderkeks gets a lot of validation already. The Austin-based cookie company (rather than a brick-and-mortar bakery, it ships its goods) got its big break when actress Busy Phillips tweeted about a cookie overstock, and the rest has been meteoric. Besides rave reviews online, a night at the Oscars, and two South by Southwest panels coming up, the LGBTQ-owned company now has one very official endorsement under its belt: the Proudly Austin Award from the Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

The cookie company joins 2021 and 2020 winners, Still Austin Whiskey Co. and Austin FC, in creating strong communities around LGBTQIA+ interests. As Wunderkeks co-founder Luis Gramajo points out — and as the prior topics of whiskey and sports hint at — although this is the LGBT Chamber’s award, it’s not just about catering to one demographic.

“When you start opening yourself and you start telling your story, you also have the responsibility to listen back,” Gramajo says.
Wunderkeks’ work in what it is currently dubbing “safe spaces,” started as an organic impulse to tell the founders’ own story. Although Wunderkeks was “closeted” in its home country of Guatemala, as Gramajo likes to say, it didn’t take Americans long to pick up on the queer messaging that subconsciously emerged from the creators’ imaginations: a pink box, a disco ball, and a dinosaur wearing a tutu.

Luis and his husband who came up with Wunderkeks’ first recipes, Hans Christian Schrei, were playing; being themselves. Who they are bled through, and started to attract others who identified with the brand’s presentation — if they’re in tune enough to pick up on it.

“We know that we're going to be having customers that [are] here just for the cookies, because they like them, and that's totally cool,” says Gramajo. “And we have customers that do want to get deeper … and that's, for us, our ideal customer.”

Wunderkeks had no choice but to be aware of the customers who are less on-board with the mission. After a partnership with Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynold’s Loveloud Foundation, Wunderkeks started getting hate mail. But the couple also started getting love notes; some said that buying a box for a loved one was a subtle way of showing support. Rainbow packaging might do the job, too, but can feel trite. Wunderkeks is leading by example.

The company has recently formed a relationship with Ben & Jerry’s Foundation president Jeff Furman, who knows a thing or two about socially-conscious brand-building. Furman reminded the gay immigrants that creating safe spaces may put them in an unsafe position, but this was old news. Under his mentorship, Gramajo and Shrei started considering the logistics of safe space-building, including how to invite people from outside their own spheres of experience.

“We started talking about including everybody here, but at the same time, we have been very aware that we cannot speak, for example, for another minority, because that’s not our experience,” says Gramajo. “We could have an idea. We're starting to talk to people that are from those minority groups … so that we can talk and we can actually understand through them.”

This being the heart of Wunderkeks (besides the chocolate chips), it’s not one closed campaign. The landscape behind the scenes, for those close to the brand and its founders, is one of constant relationship building. As the company tries to keep up with exponential growth, it is always announcing new partnerships, boosting stories through social media marketing, and trying to define not just the language that exists in a metaphorical safe space, but the container for delivering it. The company has tried its hand at festivals and live streams — why not a podcast?

“Most importantly, [the award has] given us more exposure for people to believe in what we’re doing,” says Gramajo. “We’re in a very early stage … our goal is to build this common language to talk about the safe spaces. But right now, it’s only Luis and Hans trying to discover these. What this type of award provides us, is giving us the recognition so we can reach out to influential people, and more educated people, to start talking to them. There’s a long way to walk … so we’d better start now.”

Photo courtesy of Wunderkeks
The pair went from selling cookies at farmers markets to boasting a thriving e-commerce bakery overnight.
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Out Youth Austin

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For nearly 30 years, Out Youth has been a safe place for youth of all sexual orientations and gender identities to be themselves. Out Youth promotes the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well being of sexual and gender minority youth so that they can openly and safely explore and affirm their identities. Using value-based programming, Out Youth creates programming and provides services for Austin-area youth as well as educational services for parents, educators, and caregivers. 


Support Out Youth through donations, which will be put to work immediately to provide the life-changing and life-saving programs LGBTQ youth and their families rely on every day. Go here to learn more. The nonprofit is actively looking for volunteers to help with everything from family dinners to community engagement events. Go here to learn more.


The Glitz Gala, held in the fall, is a night of fun and philanthropy. Enjoy a silent auction, DJ, photo booth, and more.

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Texas rises through the ranks of most innovative states, says new report


The Lone Star State has again taken a step up on an annual report that ranks the most and least innovative states in the country — this time cracking the top 15.

Texas ranked No. 15 in personal finance site WalletHub's 2023’s Most and Least Innovative States ranking. It's a steady improvement for the state, which ranked No. 16 in 2022 and No. 17 in 2021.

The report analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia and how each performed across 22 key metrics, including population of STEM professionals, venture capital investment activity, number of technology companies, patents per capita, and more. The data was pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Science Foundation, National Center for Education Statistics, United States Patent and Trademark Office, and other records.

Here's how Texas performed at a glance:

  • No. 18 – for share of STEM professionals
  • No. 16 – for projected STEM job demand by 2030
  • No. 25 – for eighth grade math and science performance
  • No. 21 – for share of science and engineering graduates aged 25 or older
  • No. 13 – for share of technology companies
  • No. 31 – for R&D spending per capita
  • No. 18 – venture capital funding per capita

For the 11th year, Texas won Site Selection Magazine's Governor's Cup, the governor's office announced earlier this year. The award, which Texas has won 19 times since its inception in 1978, recognizes the nation’s top-performing state for job-creating business relocations and expansions.

"Texas truly is America’s economic engine, and we stand apart as a model for the nation. When choosing where to relocate or expand their businesses, more and more innovative industry leaders find themselves at home in our state," Governor Greg Abbott says in a news release about the award.

"I congratulate the exceptional economic development teams at the local, regional, and state level who have worked so diligently to attract and retain these growing businesses and the jobs they create in diverse communities across this great state," he continues.

The most innovative states included the District of Columbia, which ranked at No. 1, followed by Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, and California, respectively. The least innovative state was identified as Mississippi, followed by Louisiana, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Arkansas, respectively.

Source: WalletHub

Access to quality education is a significant contributor to each state's innovation economy, the experts say in the report.

"Investing in education, particularly K-12 but also at the University level, it is no accident that innovative ecosystems develop in states with strong education systems and research universities," says David L. Deeds, professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. "These institutions build strong capable modern workforces that attract capital, and jobs and create innovations. The benefits do not happen overnight, in fact, they take years if not decades, but consider what The UC’s or the University of Texas at Austin have meant for the development of premier innovative ecosystems."

Austin's meat palace Fogo de Chao expands its menu with new plant-based options

Vegan News

Well, here's a twist: Fogo de Chão, the churrascuria-style restaurant concept from Brazil known for its dedication to meat, is expanding its menu in an unprecedented new direction: They're adding tofu.

Effective immediately, the restaurant will offer new plant-based and nutrient-dense dishes, alongside an enhanced Bar Fogo beverage list that has new non-alcoholic craft cocktails made with low-proof spirits (less than 0.5 percent alcohol).

Fogo CEO Barry McGowan says in a release that they're responding to demand from their younger, more health-conscious customers.

"Our young and dynamic guests consider themselves food explorers who seek new culinary discoveries with each visit,” McGowan says. “For nearly 45 years we’ve had nutrient-dense and plant-forward dining options for every occasion and dietary tribe throughour Market Table. With the rollout of our new dining choices and clean cocktails, we continue to offer our guests the variety and discoveries they crave while doing it in a wholesome and flavorful way.”

The Market Table is their famed salad bar, which has sated many a vegetarian diner or else those just not up for the whole skewered meat thing that is a trademark of Fogo and other churrascuria-style places.

Two new plant-based innovations will join Fogo's existing Vegetarian and Pescatarian dishes such as the Cauliflower Steak, and will be available on the main dining menu available for lunch, brunch, and dinner as an alternative to the Full Churrasco Experience, as follows:

  • Seared Tofu with Miso Black Bean Pasta - Chimichurri-marinated tofu served atop black bean pasta sautéed with green onion, Napa cabbage, pickled onions and carrot ginger-miso dressing. Vegan and gluten-free.
  • Roasted Power Vegetable Bowl - Roasted eggplant, marinated mushrooms, roasted zucchini, asparagus, and baby peppers served with chimichurri spinach rice. Vegan and gluten-free.

togo power bowlRoasted Power Vegetable Bowl at Fogo de Chao.Photo courtesy of Fogo de Chao

They're also rolling out new dishes on the Market Table which for the past 45 years has showcased nutrient-dense and flavorful choices including seasonal salads, micro greens, natural and plant-based proteins, imported charcuterie, and more.

New items on the Market Table are as follows:

  • Spring Hummus - Fresh hummus blended with herbs, roasted garlic and citrus, topped with radish, fresh mint, edamame, and olive oil.
  • Baby Kale & Mango Salad - Fresh baby kale, Napa cabbage, red radish and mango, tossed in a lime honey dressing.
  • Miso Black Bean Pasta - Gluten-free black bean pasta tossed with green onion, Napa cabbage, pickled onions and carrot ginger-miso dressing.
  • Apple Manchego Salad - Granny Smith apples and Manchego cheese tossed with honey, cracked pepper and black mission figs.
  • Power Greens - A seasonal mix of vitamin-rich greens, fresh herbs and micro-shoots

The Bar
The Bar Fogo menu now features five new cocktails, including three made with Clean Co’s non-alcoholic spirits with less than 0.5% alcohol, as follows:

  • Yellowbird - Desolas Mezcal, Passion Fruit, Pineapple, Cointreau, La Marca Prosecco
  • Espresso Martini - Diplomatico Reserva Rum, Caffe Borghetti and Licor 43
  • Clean Cosmo - CleanCo V (Vodka) Apple, Cranberry, Fresh Lemon
  • CleanR Sour - CleanCo R (Rum), Passionfruit, Pineapple, Aquafaba, Bitters
  • Clean Cucumber Martini - CleanCo V (Vodka) Apple, Cucumber, Basil, Lemon Twist

Founded in southern Brazil in 1979, Fogo has seven other locations across Texas: Addison, Uptown Dallas, Plano, Friendswood, Houston, San Antonio, and The Woodlands.

City of Austin spikes weekend parking rates at Zilker Park

pay to play

Starting May 1, one of Austin's most popular parks will be increasing parking prices and start charging for parking in lots that were previously free.

At Zilker Park, the parking lots that currently charge $5 for parking will be increased to $7 from May 1 through Labor Day.

The parking lot off of Stratford Road, just north of the Zilker Botanical Garden, and the South Barton Springs Pool parking lot, near Azie Morton Road, will start charging $7 on the weekends and holidays.

Both of these parking lots were havens for visitors and residents alike, as they were free to park. Park visitors like P.K. Luangsingotha liked that parking was free at the lot off Stratford. Luangsingotha said he is not happy that he will have to start paying to park.

"I believe people should be out enjoying the parks, the sunlight, et. cetera, and not have to [pay]. I mean, the City is already making so much money as it [is]. Now trying to tax people more on parking — I think it’s kind of unfair. Just my opinion," Luangsingotha said.

Hailey Adams, an Austin resident, also enjoys coming to Zilker and the free parking near Stratford with her dog. Come May, Adams may adjust the activities she participates in at Zilker due to the cost of parking.

“I definitely want more of a [full-day] activity, versus sometimes [coming] for 30 minutes," Adams said.

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department said it hopes charging at the parking lots will help with traffic issues.


Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.