Meir Jacobs, better known as Micky, has been making rye bread, challah, Kaiser rolls, bagels and strudel at the same Farmers Market location for the last 35 years and at 86, the Hungarian immigrant isn't about to break the routine.
"Nobody tells me to do it," he said last week, amid the clatter of his seven-day-a-week operation. "I don't have to work if I don't want to. "I just enjoy it. I don't want to give up."
Although Jacobs remains a constant, his bakery has seen major changes. It's now part of Breadworks, a wholesale artisan breadmaker that's owned by Los Angeles-based SMS Foods Inc. Last year, Jacobs sold his company, which included the wholesale portion of Brown's Wilshire Bakery. The Brown's retail store closed about a month ago.
Breadwork's 31-year-old president, Seth Silverman, believes that combining Breadworks' artisan specialties with Brown's wholesale business will help grow revenues 20 percent annually. He's eying other Jewish bakeries with aging owners who have a strong wholesale customer base but no succession plan. "There is a lot of opportunity (in) more of the older Jewish bakeries, where their kids don't really want to do it," said Silverman.
It's been a tough road for many of the area's Jewish bakeries, having to withstand fad diets, large chain competitors and, more recently, the trendy set.
To satisfy the high-end demand, French and New York bakeries are starting to dot the L.A. landscape. Then there are the mega-supermarkets: A recent survey by the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association found that 50 percent consumers shop for bakery goods at in-store bakeries once a week or more.
But Jacobs isn't alone in holding onto the old ways. Alex Zhevelev, a Russian immigrant who has worked in various jobs since coming to this country 10 years ago, recently bought the Beverlywood Bakery on Pico Boulevard.
Zhevelev said he and a partner will only make minor changes to the 60-year-old bakery, but most things will stay the same, with staples like rugalach (a crescent-shaped Jewish cookie), babka (a coffee cake-like pastry) and mondel bread (similar to biscotti).
"These recipes have been sold for hundreds of years," said Zhevelev. "It is not like some smart guy five years ago said, 'Oh, let's do this mondel bread.'" But Zhevelev recently bought some new neon, and the Beverlywood sign is now lit for the first time in decades.
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