Friday, September 4, 2015

Pinay owner of LA bakery wants to keep it old school

Despite offers from investors, a Filipina immigrant in Los Angeles is not letting go of her business —  a bakery that has become a staple in Silver Lake.

“Why would I sell? What is $1 million or $2 million? How long will that last? No. It’s up to my kids when I’m dead. But I hope they keep the legacy to help people," said Andrea de Guzman, owner of United Bread and Pastry, in an article on LA Weekly.

Surrounded by hip restaurants and gourmet organic markets.The small bakery — known for its tasty siopao and adobo rolls — is one of the few Filipino businesses in the residential area, having outlived its contemporaries like Bemba's Bake Shop and Betsy's, the article said.

2013 article on Backyard Bites said De Guzman started selling traditional Filipino food in 1978 out of her apartment in a then-"gang-infested" neighborhood before buying the Silver Lake property in 1985.

The idea for a bakery, however, came from her husband Romeo, whom she met in 1979, according to an article on Pig Parts & Beer.

"The idea was my husband’s. We met through family friends and married in 1979. His family has a bakery in the Philippines, so he knew how to bake. We started making food in our apartment," she said.

"I was scared that someone would report us... We decided to rent this small building off of Sunset and Griffith Park Blvd. We live up the hill and the price was reasonable. It used to be a house, but it was burned in a fire. The original owners made an office. I talked to them about building a bakery. They were ok with the idea," she added.

Their customer base was built through her work as a caregiver for her aunt and as a medical assistant at the Good Samaritan Hospital, where she sold Filipino pastries made by Romeo.

Fears brought by her husband's status as a then-undocumented immigrant and their struggles with poverty eventually led the couple into helping six Filipino and Latino families get green cards by working in the bakery.

De Guzman told LA Weekly that this willingness to help others in need made her shop memorable and reminded her of her upbringing as a daughter of poor rice farmers in Luzon.

“I treated them like they were my own sons, because I came from a poor family and I know how hard it is not to have money. When you are poor and somebody gives you a little, you treasure it. That’s why I think I’m still here [even though the neighborhood has changed]," she said. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News 

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