The Bay Area’s labor shortage and the high costs of doing business here are forcing Palo Alto’s highly regarded Prolific Oven bakery and cafe to shut down operations.
“We just don’t see it getting any better,” owner Regina Chan told the Peninsula Foodist blog on Palo Alto Online, adding that “we wanted to pull the plug” rather than start cutting corners on the quality of their baked goods.
The company’s two other bakeries — in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale — also will close. The last day in Santa Clara will be Aug. 24; the last day for the Palo Alto and Sunnyvale locations will be Aug. 31, according to the blog. The Sunnyvale bakery had opened just three years ago, in 2015.
Founded in 1980 on Palo Alto’s Waverley Street, the family-owned and operated bakeries quickly became known for their decadent cakes and other pastries — then expanded to offer sandwiches, salads and other lunch and dinner fare.
Chan attributed the decision to a tight labor market that’s been made worse by Silicon Valley companies hiring bakers and cooks for their high-tech campuses, along with the rising cost of ingredients.
“We used to (get) tons of applications for kids in high school, kids just graduating from school, kids in college who wanted a part-time job,” she told Palo Alto Online. “We aren’t getting those applications anymore.”
There had been signs on the website that the bakery’s business model was facing difficulties.
In 2017, the Chans posted a note that said “Help Us Keep Our Quality Elevated” and implored customers to place their orders in advance.
The note explained: “Despite unprecedented challenges, we want to stay true to our original visions and commitments to our customers. In addition to continued use of all original recipes and quality ingredients, it is extremely important to us that we continue providing the freshest cakes and pastries possible. In order to do that — now more than ever — we ask you to please place your orders at least two days in advance. In return, we promise you will never receive a frozen cake or day-old pastries from us.”
A Fremont location, which opened in 2008 in the Pacific Commons area, had previously closed.
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