In lots of observant Jewish houses, there are mezuzahs affixed to door frames. The slender, ornate cylinders comprise a small prayer scroll and are touched upon coming into or leaving. This signifies each the calming presence of religion and the journey throughout a threshold, a second spent between two areas.
At 75-year-old Jewish establishment Diamond Bakery on Fairfax, new house owners Doug Weinstein and Brian Hollander are at their very own type of transition level. The chums and enterprise companions are reckoning with the on a regular basis calls for of working a bakery and the necessity to modernize an getting older operation with out alienating long-time clientele in a group that has seen a lot upheaval.
“We are able to’t let this die,” says Hollander, sitting contained in the lengthy, brilliant bakery as clients go by in clusters, choosing up slices of honey cake, wealthy, chocolatey babka, and packing containers of Polish rugelach, full of dabs of apricot and raspberry jam. “It is a legacy bakery. It’s a landmark.”
Certainly it’s. Diamond could also be a very powerful Jewish bakery in Southern California. First opened in 1946 and located immediately on Fairfax (a Jewish neighborhood newly wealthy with eating places and streetwear labels), the bakery itself provides bagels, breads, and extra to a few of higher LA’s most outstanding Jewish delis and synagogues, together with Nate ‘n Al’s, the now-closed Greenblatt’s, and the historic Wilshire Boulevard Temple, which dates to the 1860s in Los Angeles. The place is mobbed throughout key holidays on the Jewish calendar and has a gradual clientele of regulars who insist on Diamond’s challah, mandelbrodt, and different staple sweets distinctive to the Jewish diaspora.
“The bakery actually has this nice historical past,” says Hollander, who met Weinstein whereas volunteering to arrange weekly challah loaves at a Jewish group in Santa Barbara. “It was run by Holocaust survivors for 50 years.”
Hollander, an East Coast transplant, had by no means been to Diamond Bakery earlier than a whirlwind street journey from Santa Barbara in February with Weinstein, who plotted stops at well-known Jewish establishments like Canter’s up the road. Weinstein, a former Century Plaza Resort pastry apprentice and artisan baker, grew up in higher Los Angeles; the reminiscence of Diamond, the religion that it will at all times be there, referred to as him again. They discovered a enterprise on the brink.
After a long time of service, the Lottman and Rubenstein households that had run the bakery stepped away in early 2020, leaving Diamond as a type of worker-owned cooperative in limbo, weighed down by an getting older constructing, a summer time of political unrest, and the crushing lockdowns that stored wholesale purchasers and clients away. Co-owner Ramon and Raymond Luna and employees ultimately turned to a crowdfunding effort to aim to stay solvent.
“Raida Shieban [a Diamond Bakery employee] instructed me they had been about to shut in the event that they couldn’t determine one thing out,” says Weinstein of his February journey. “I referred to as over to Brian and mentioned ‘Hey, you bought any cash? Need to purchase a bakery?’” A brand new possession deal wrapped inside months.
“If it wasn’t for Ramon and Raida and Maggie and Carlos and Guillermo and the entire crew saying ‘We’re going to proceed working’ … With out them, there could be no extra Diamond Bakery,” says Weinstein. “Although we’re stepping in at an important second, if it wasn’t for them I’d have come down right here on that journey and I’d have been heartbroken that it was closed.”
Collectively, Hollander and Weinstein have turn out to be stewards of Diamond Bakery, largely eschewing the possession title in favor of an extended view. “Folks say to me, ‘Oh, you’re the brand new proprietor,’” says Weinstein. “I simply pay the payments. It’s a group factor, I’m simply chargeable for holding it going.” So too are the Ramons and Raidas of the restaurant. Hollander and Weinstein’s new enterprise mannequin now consists of shares put aside for workers, with funds from these shares paying out bonuses and retirement packages. They’ve additionally given everybody a elevate. “We didn’t have it almost as onerous as that they had it for a 12 months,” says Weinstein. “I need them to know that we respect them.”
Subsequent up: How one can shepherd Diamond Bakery towards a affluent future that integrates clients previous and new. The store itself has gotten some updates, and there are ongoing discussions about what to maintain (and what to lose) from the bakery’s pastry instances. “How will we preserve the custom, however then begin including stuff in order that younger individuals who don’t know what Jewish baking is will see one thing tasty and acquainted,” Weinstein says.
“It’s each an honor and it’s terrifying,” says Hollander of this doorway second, caught between worlds previous and new. “We went to the unique house owners to get their blessing. We needed them to know that we care concerning the historical past and legacy of this place. We additionally want to present this place the type of tune-up that can make it profitable as we speak, on this neighborhood.”
Future plans embody pop-ups, new kosher certification, some wanted renovations, a slew of family-friendly occasions, and a renewed bagel program, ideally led by a younger, upstart baker. “We have to prepare the following technology of lifelong, dedicated bakers,” says Weinstein. “We’re keen to present them a possibility to specific their creativity, to present them a platform.” They’re additionally plotting a non-profit to connect with new, socially-minded clients; the main target will range, however could embody issues like a coaching observe the place individuals with disabilities can be taught on the job.
Hollander and Weinstein proceed to depend on religion, and the collective energy of their staff, to information them over this present threshold, however they see loads of sunshine forward. Plus, Weinstein says, they’ve obtained an unbeatable ally at their facet: “Now we have the model: Diamond. It’s the top. We simply have to dwell as much as the title and the standard that folks count on.”