As the pandemic wears on, so does the strain on local businesses and the owners of the Vienna Pastry fear their business will not make it to the finish line.
The bakery has been a staple in Santa Monica since 1957 and was taken over by the Khadavi family in 1988, after they came to America as refugees fleeing the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
For 65 years the store has remained as resilient as its owners, operating as a true mom-and-pop with three sisters running the baking and multiple generations lending a hand at the shop.
At the beginning of 2020 business was still flourishing, but the pandemic put everything at risk.
With no banquets, weddings, or parties to cater to and all hotels canceling their pastry orders, the bakery is only running at 40 percent of its usual business, according to owner Fred Khadavi.
“People still come in person but they buy a much smaller amount instead of buying for bigger events,” said Khadavi. “With the same expenses and so much less business we can’t survive. I think we have to close it soon, because we owe a lot of money.”
The precipitous drop in demand coupled with the landlord’s desire to raise rent has made continuing operations untenable. But, the family isn’t ready to give up yet.
Facing what they know may be a losing battle, the bakery team is keeping the store’s doors open for now.
They plan on expanding their offerings to include vegan pastries and more healthy treats to try and attract new shoppers. They are also doubling down on their social media outreach and appealing to their loyal customer base.
“Lots of our customers love this bakery. When they found out that there is a possibility we will close some of them cried,” said Khadavi. “Some people are actually panicking ‘oh where am I going to buy my cakes for my son’s birthday’. It’s really nice to see that kind of support; we appreciate it so much and that’s giving us the energy to keep trying.”
Family friends of the bakery have organized a GoFundMe to try to raise $50,000 to cover the store’s back rent.
Prior to the pandemic their landlord had discussed raising the rent by $5000 to cover upgrades to the building, and despite the subsequent and ongoing economic turmoil he wishes to proceed with the price increase, according to Khadavi.
As the bakery is already behind its current rent, owners say there is no way they can pay an increased rent. Negotiations with the landlord have yielded no compromise so far.
What the owners hope for most of all is government relief. They have tried multiple times to apply for a Small Business Association loan through the COVID-19 relief program but have yet to receive any money.
The Vienna Pastry GoFundMe can be found at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/vienna-pastry-needs-your-help