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 getting 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 homeowners Doug Weinstein and Brian Hollander are at their very own sort 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 growing old operation with out alienating long-time clientele in a neighborhood that has seen a lot upheaval.
“We are able to’t let this die,” says Hollander, sitting contained in the lengthy, shiny bakery as clients go by means of 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 crucial Jewish bakery in Southern California. First opened in 1946 and located instantly 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 larger 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 gentle 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 Lodge pastry apprentice and artisan baker, grew up in larger Los Angeles; the reminiscence of Diamond, the religion that it will at all times be there, known as him again. They discovered a enterprise on the brink.
After many years of service, the Lottman and Rubenstein households that had run the bakery stepped away in early 2020, leaving Diamond as a sort of worker-owned cooperative in limbo, weighed down by an growing old constructing, a summer time of political unrest, and the crushing lockdowns that stored wholesale shoppers and clients away. Co-owner Ramon and Raymond Luna and employees finally turned to a crowdfunding effort to aim to stay solvent.
“Raida Shieban [a Diamond Bakery employee] informed me they have been about to shut in the event that they couldn’t determine one thing out,” says Weinstein of his February journey. “I known as over to Brian and stated ‘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 might have come down right here on that journey and I might have been heartbroken that it was closed.”
Collectively, Hollander and Weinstein have turn into stewards of Diamond Bakery, largely eschewing the possession title in favor of an extended view. “Individuals say to me, ‘Oh, you’re the brand new proprietor,’” says Weinstein. “I simply pay the payments. It’s a neighborhood 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 increase. “We didn’t have it practically as onerous as that they had it for a 12 months,” says Weinstein. “I need them to know that we recognize them.”
Subsequent up: The right way to shepherd Diamond Bakery towards a affluent future that integrates clients outdated 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 do not 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 outdated and new. “We went to the unique homeowners 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 offer this place the sort of tune-up that may make it profitable at present, 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 era of lifelong, dedicated bakers,” says Weinstein. “We’re keen to offer them a chance to specific their creativity, to offer them a platform.” They’re additionally plotting a non-profit to hook up with new, socially-minded clients; the main focus will range, however could embody issues like a coaching monitor the place individuals with disabilities can study on the job.
Hollander and Weinstein proceed to depend on religion, and the collective energy of their workers, to information them over this present threshold, however they see loads of sunshine forward. Plus, Weinstein says, they’ve acquired an unbeatable ally at their aspect: “We have now the model: Diamond. It’s the top. We simply have to reside as much as the identify and the standard that folks count on.”