MAIN STREET — The Breadman is mounting a comeback.
A fixture at Santa Monica Farmers’ Markets since the early 1990s, the venerable bread and pastry dealer was banished from both Sunday’s Main Street market and Saturday’s Downtown market after a recent overhaul of the system for picking vendors.
Prompted by complaints claiming the markets included too many prepared food booths run by non-Santa Monica-based companies, the reorganization gave preference to local operations and also favored sellers who use organic ingredients and minimize waste.
To the chagrin of its loyal followers, the Breadman, which is run out of a bakery near Hancock Park, didn’t make the cut.
Since October, a new bread vendor, Ca’d’oro, which has a bakery on Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica, has taken over at the Main Street market. Los Angeles-based pastry and sweet bread specialist Valerie Confections has replaced Breadman at the Saturday Downtown market.
But rather than sulk over the snub, 71-year-old Breadman owner Richard Schackne hatched a plan.
His first instinct was to fight the eviction, so he filed a complaint with City Hall’s Risk Management Department arguing Santa Monica officials unfairly harmed his business, which he said had sales at the two Santa Monica markets of $200,000 per year.
“How can they take away something that I built and give it to somebody else? That is not the American way,” he said on Tuesday.
Schackne hasn’t received an update on his claim, he said. A call to the Risk Management Department was not returned by deadline Tuesday.
It was after paying a visit to City Hall to file the claim that Schackne noticed catering trucks nearby and had an idea. He applied for vending permits and within weeks was ready to sell his bread out of the back of a van.
He debuted the Breadman truck last weekend, parking on the fringes of the Farmers’ Markets he used to inhabit.
“It’s not going to be the same level of business that we had,” he admitted, but pointed out he won’t have to pay market fees to sell bread out of his van.
At the Main Street market, finding prime parking could be a problem. For his first week as a mobile vendor there the Breadman parked in the pay-per-space lot adjacent to the market, but was recently informed that doing business in the lot violates city code. He’ll have to find a spot on the street to hawk his baked goods in order to comply.
The re-emergence of the Breadman has caused only a minor stir among the Farmers’ Market community.
“I applaud his entrepreneurial spirit, certainly,” said Jodi Low, who oversees the Main Street Market for City Hall. “There are many customers that will be happy to have access to his products.”
As long as the Breadman van stays within the law, she said there’s no plan to contest Schackne’s right to do street business during market hours.