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Village Bakery Will Rise Again After Devastating Flood

Iconic Sonoma County bakery will bake again, but when?

(Updated 3/29/19) The sourdough will rise again at Village Bakery. It’s just going to take a few more months, says manager Lisa Schroeder.

In late February, amid the multi-day downpour that drenched the region, the popular bakery’s Sebastopol production facility at The Barlow flooded along with many other businesses in the upscale food and business center along the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

The bakery’s 3,500-square-foot production kitchen — from which it distributed to more than 200 commercial accounts, including K & L Bistro and Stark’s Steak and Seafood restaurants — was declared 
a total loss.

Mike Ramirez throws away trays of cookies and other pastries at the Village Bakery in the Barlow business district in Sebastopol on Monday. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Owner Patrick Lum said he was forced to lay off 60 employees with no clear idea of when the bakery could reopen at that location.

“The employees are the heart and soul of our company. I hate seeing them go, but I hope they stay with us. We want everyone back, whether that’s realistic or not. I do understand if they have to leave, they have families,” said Lum.

Adding to the bakery’s difficult month, Lum’s wife Teresa also suffered a serious heart condition after hearing the news of the loss and required hospitalization for several weeks.

Mike Ramirez shovels water-logged bread dough into garbage bins outside of Village Bakery in the Barlow business district in Sebastopol on Monday. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Cleanup work is progressing, and the Lums have now signaled that they are poised to reopen the bakery and move forward with a separate retail location in Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village.

“It’s a matter of when,” Lum said of a reopening that Schroeder tentatively pegged for early summer. “But we’re not closing.

“It’s not really up to us right now,” Lum said. “We’re still assessing our equipment and things are up in the air.”

“We’re a Sonoma County staple, but it’s going to be a minute,” said Schroeder. “It’s longer than we wanted it to be, but the drywall is going back up. There is progress. We are working with The Barlow management/ownership to get up and running as soon as possible.”

As well, the closure has been difficult for the bakery’s wholesale customers, who have had to find different bakeries to fulfill their needs.

“We literally didn’t know how good we had it until they were gone. We had a symbiotic relationship with them,” said Lucas Martin, owner of K&L Bistro in Sebastopol. Martin said he has worked with three other bakeries since the closure of Village Bakery. He said the restaurant used their bread, rolls, and English muffins.

“It was just perfect for the style of food that we do. It’s just a huge loss,” he said. “The whole Barlow thing is a tragedy. I’m thrilled they’re going back in.”

Like many other businesses at The Barlow, Village Bakery didn’t have flood insurance, which Lum said was prohibitively costly. The site is located within the floodplain of the adjacent Laguna, and water in the bakery and neighboring businesses rose as high as 6 feet at the peak of the storm’s runoff. Several employees were in the building when the flooding occurred and had to be evacuated, Lum said.

Village Bakery general manager Lisa Schroeder cleans up after last week’s flood waters reached about 3 feet in the Barlow business district in Sebastopol on Monday. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

“We thought we would be protected. We felt safe in terms of flood losses,” he said. Lum isn’t yet sure how much his losses have totaled but said it was “hundreds of thousands (of dollars) at least.”

“You have to put things in perspective. The loss is sad, but it could have been worse. There’s a lot of worse things in the world,” he said.

The bakery lost not just inventory, but much of its heavy duty equipment. The floodwaters, according to the owners, contained gasoline, kitchen grease and sewage, making cleanup incredibly difficult and hazardous.

“We have to sanitize everything. We want to make sure that when people come back to us we’re as good as they remember,” Lum said.

Workers try to upright a cold case tipped over in last week’s flooding in the Village Bakery in the Barlow business district in Sebastopol on Monday. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Schroeder, who has worked for Village Bakery for six years, said the cleaning and repair is an onerous task. Its been happening at the bakery as well as adjacent flooded businesses for weeks.

In addition to the Sebastopol bakery, which had both production space and a retail store, Village Bakery plans to open a retail store in Montgomery Village at the former Michelle Marie’s Patisserie. That spot is under construction, and cannot open until a production facility is back in operation. Village Bakery’s longtime location in the Town and Country shopping center has closed in preparation for their Montgomery Village opening, meaning that the bakery currently has no retail operations.

Schroeder says they’ve had a huge outpouring of love from the community.

“People keep trying to come in. I get emails asking every day for seeded sourdough,” she says.

You can help the Village Bakery family get back on its feet: Contribute to their GoFundMe

This is the first in a series on food purveyors and restaurants navigating recovery after the Sebastopol flooding in February 2019

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Comments

14 thoughts on “Village Bakery Will Rise Again After Devastating Flood

  1. I thought that they were going to move into the space where Michelles in Montgomery Village used to be? I’ve never been to Village but I miss Michelles so much

  2. Should have use the clear negligence of the developer/landlord to break the lease and get out of dodge.

    And suing the developer/landlord for foisting an unworkable plan on the trusting tenants and stupid City.

  3. Such a sad situation. They were supposed to open up shop in Michelle Marie’s former location in Montgomery Village, but now this has happened…I wonder do they still have plans to do so? I wish them the best of luck to re-open at The Barlow…they have such a wonderful bakery.

  4. Village Bakery’s seeded sourdough is my favorite bread of all times. I have enjoyed this wonderful bread for over 20 years best bread ever, toasted smothered with butter. I am sending you all good karma to find the right place and be successful again and oh did I mention I worked there when the fabulous Princess Cake first made it appearance. Love the Village Bakery.

  5. Rebuilding in the Barlow is not a rational chioice. There are many dry storefronts in Sebastopol that are vacant and unlikely to flood.

  6. “Insurance was prohibitive,” That was a basic cost of being in this business in this place. If the business can’t pay its insurance, it’s not a business — it’s a fun thing, a hobby. (Self-insurance is OK, but that means when the flood comes, you already have the resources to get going again without having to rely on anyone else.)

    Sure, sorry to see anyone suffer, but this points to bad business management from the start.

    For anyone in the Russian River / Laguna area — prepare for water five feet over what we recently experienced. If you can’t handle it, get out now.

    1. The landlord had assured all the tenants that a flood plan was in place. They had the barricades, they had the plan, but they failed to act both on time and with the manpower required to deploy the barriers. The tenants moved in based on that plan, which the landlord failed to follow.

      1. Sounds like a claim against the landlord. Sounds like the business plan was “landlord takes responsibility for preventing flood damage and takes responsibility for any failure to provide for that.” In such case, there’s no need for Go-Fund-Me: it’s “Landlord Funds Me!”

        1. Look, no one’s making you donate. I don’t know what your beef is. Maybe you just like a forum to complain.

  7. Village Bakery is my all time favorite. So sad to see this happened to them. Get the heck out of the Barlow and find a new place for baking. How can you be rest assured Barlow facility management will take care of things the next time it floods? The Barlow is a looser location.

    1. “Looser location” or “loser location”? Yes, subject to predictable flooding. If you can afford to rebuild every ten years or so, this is a place for you. If such rebuilds don’t fit into your plan, don’t occupy space here. The apple processing plant made sense there — the flooding occurs when apples are far from harvest, so the cleanup can be done before harvest time!

      1. Most of the old buildings that were used for apple processing were built high to allow loading and unloading from trucks or railcars. The new structures were built on the ground, mostly it is those that flooded.

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