By serving fresh Mexican bread such as bolillos, conchas, cakes of different flavors and bread pudding, La Guadalupana bakery has been open to the public for more than 30 years in the neighborhood of Central-Alameda.
Francisco Hernandez, known to everyone in the community as Paco and owner of the bakery, said the family business started long before, when his grandmother owned her own bakery in La Barca, Jalisco, in Mexico. “My father, who died already, learned there and when he moved here to work, he opened his own business,” he said.
Mr. Hernandez, who is mainly in charge of making cakes, said the bakery is a “small business and the customers are mainly Latino people from the neighborhood.” He recalled feeling at ease and really good about owning his own bakery and being able to support his family for a very long time.
According to the Census Bureau, people of “Hispanic or Latino” origins represent about 49% of the Los Angeles County population. Being almost half the population of the county, their presence is an important part of the L.A. culture with the increase of diversity in restaurants and bakeries.
Mr. Hernandez’s bread baker, Ramón Dorantes from Mexico City, Mexico, makes all the bread by himself every morning. Mr. Hernandez said Dorantes has been working in the bakery since 1991, and he thinks that could be one of the reasons why people like it so much.
“Maybe people come because we haven’t changed and the bread baker is the same,” he said.
But not everything is warm and tasty like the bread they sell, the egg shortage in the country has affected the bakery significantly.
“With the egg prices so high we can’t support a business and help the clients with a more fair and comfortable price,” Maria Hernandez, the wife of Mr. Hernandez, said.
California experienced a massive egg shortage and higher prices at the beginning of the year causing egg prices to rise from $2.35 for a dozen large eggs to around $7.37 until mid-February, when the price of the eggs lowered to $5.74, according to the Department of Agriculture.
This was caused by different reasons including a bird flu outbreak that killed more than 50 million birds nationally and the implementation of Proposition 12 in different states including California, which requires hens to be cage-free since 2022.
Mr. and Mrs. Hernandez both said that it has been a challenge for the bakery. In order to survive the crisis, they needed to adjust the bread and cake costs by increasing the price a bit more because the eggs were too expensive for them to keep it the same.
“We seek alternatives by looking for eggs at better prices and we needed to increase a little bit the costs to compensate for the high egg prices and shortage,” Mrs. Hernandez said. “We could find eggs but the prices were what most affected us.”
Mrs. Hernandez, whose favorite bread is the cuernitos, said the bakery is “a goal accomplished.” She helps with the cakes’ designs and is in charge of the communication between the bakery and the clients who order cakes and bread for events.
“I’m who makes the agreements with the clients and socializes a bit more,” she said. “With a kind treatment and an act of service for them.”
Latine people move to the U.S. for different reasons. One of them is looking for a better quality of life to support their families, and a lot of times, they are not able to go back to their countries. Some of them said they feel happy when they can find places that conserve their culture.
Mr. Hernandez feels really good about providing this piece of home to people not just from Mexico but from all over Latino America who live in the community and look for familiar tastes to feel closer to their cultures.
“People who are used to eating bread will always want to eat bread,” he said. He adds there are people who even go every day to get their bread and coffee early in the morning before leaving for work.
Customers like Uriel Anguiano from Tuxpan, Jalisco, Mexico, who is a member of a mariachi in L.A., said he and his brother visit the bakery every time they work close to the area. “Normally I would come in the weekends and sometimes in the middle of the week when we work close by,” he said.
Anguiano feels good to have a Latino bakery where he can get a sense of home. “In other places, it’s not so common to find Mexican bread,” he said.
Blanca Valdivia, from Guadalajara, Jalisco, has six months working at the bakery. She said her favorite bread is the vanilla conchas and that she enjoys working at the bakery because it’s satisfactory for her to work in a place that makes her feel closer to home.
“It’s really helpful just because of the taste of the bread and being able to have it on hand,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused thousands of restaurants to close and employees to lose their jobs because of the social distancing set in the country as a measure to stop the spread of the virus.
Mr. Hernandez said that because of the high inflation of the country and the price increase of the other food items after that, they needed to cut employees and work harder. “The solution was to work more and have fewer employees,” he said.
Mrs. Hernandez recalled how the pandemic was another low point for the bakery but they are happy they were able to stand up. “We qualified for the small business aid and that helped us create a bit of support for the business, and trying to look everywhere for cheaper prices for the flour, milk and everything we need,” she said.
Mr. Hernandez hopes to expand the bakery and upgrade it since he thinks it is somewhat small and needs more space. He has not been successful so far. “We have everything reduced and I would like to make it bigger from the back in the future,” he said.
Juan Gutierrez, who has been Mr. Hernandez’s friend for around 23 years, said he always goes to the bakery to help him and to provide for his company when there is no one else working at the bakery.
Gutierrez said that he feels really good about being around the bakery and he thinks it is necessary for Latinos in the community to have these food representations.
He invites people to visit and support the bakery and try all the different handmade bread they offer.
“I love all the bread but mainly the puerquitos, piedras and guayabas,” Gutierrez said.
The sense of home is the recipe Mr. Hernandez hopes will keep his bakery going for more years to come.