DOWNTOWN — A beloved bakery will have the opportunity to keep its place in the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers’ Market for one more year because of a typo in its contract, officials said Friday.
Bezian Bakery, which has held a stall in the Wednesday market for almost 20 years, was almost ejected when a panel of judges selected Venice-based Red Bread to take its place after both bakers went out for the position.
It was the first time that Bezian had been forced to compete to keep his spot since the City Council adopted a policy in 2009 on the advice of the City Attorney’s Office to require prepared food vendors to reapply every three years to stay in the markets.
Jack Bezian and his wife were told that Sept. 26 would be their final day in the market for at least a year until they had the opportunity to reapply when another prepared food contract came up.
Bezian wasn’t having it.
He came Wednesday with his wares and a copy of his contract that stated the end date was September 2013.
That was a surprise to staff, who had awarded one, two and three-year contracts when the policy came into effect in 2010 in order to stagger the dates that the contracts came up for renewal.
They had meant to give Bezian a two-year contract, but made a mistake and wrote it for three years instead, said Deputy City Attorney Alan Seltzer.
At the end of those two years, Bezian was sent an application, which he filled out, and made a presentation to a panel of judges who awarded points based on the business location, environmental sustainability, ingredient-sourcing, experience and value.
Red Bread won handily.
“City staff believes it can work out a resolution to accommodate the Bezians for the third year of the contract,” Seltzer said.
That means both Bezian and Red Bread will be hawking their wares in the same market, as will a third bread company, Rockenwagner.
“The City Attorney’s Office was asked to look into the city’s rights to reform the contract, but it was determined that an accommodation that didn’t prejudice either Bezian or Red Bread was preferable,” Seltzer said.
That was acceptable to Bezian, but he still wasn’t particularly pleased with the situation.
“I’m happy for one year,” he said. “I’m not happy with the way they treated me. Thanks for staying here almost two decades! But nothing positive.”
Bezian sells his special form of fermented sourdough bread, which he says is packed with probiotics that are especially beneficial to the human body.
Rather than yeast, Bezian allows his sourdough breads to age for up to a month before baking it and bringing it to market.
Over 600 people signed a petition to keep him in place, and several who stopped by the stall on Sept. 19 said they had come in from Culver City specifically to buy his bread.
If he had been forced to leave, they would have been forced to seek him out at markets in Hollywood and Pasadena where he also sells.
Bezian does not have a storefront that customers can visit, although he has recently begun taking some orders online.
At the end of this year, Bezian will have to put in a new application if he wants to remain in the Wednesday market. That will likely pit him against Rockenwagner, who currently holds the spot.
Bezian believes it won’t come to that.
“We’re going to force them to keep us longer,” he said.