Sunday, August 9, 2009

And can you please write "Ironic" in green frosting?

This morning I was reading the front section of the San Fran Chronicle when an advertisement caught my eye. A half page ad for a big, TARP-receiving bank, it showed a woman baker contemplating a cake, very seriously, ready to apply the final touches. Underneath ran a tag line, something like "As a small business owner, I can be my own boss."

In the few seconds that I glanced at the ad, the following thought process went through my head :"ha, female baker, just like my friend in LA ...her bakery has that same tile...and those same counters...and that same one-of-a-kind light fixture and funky 60s seating. Oh my god, this picture was taken inside her bakery!"

And why, you may ask, does my friend who is her own boss let out her shop for photo shoots that feature serious entrepreneurial pastry chefs? Because she is closing the business. In part it's a question of burnout - 20 hour workdays will do that to you after 6 years - but there's also the issue of major economic contraction due to banks tightening credit standards. Customers drying up, special orders slowing down, even for a bakery voted the best in LA numerous times.

She didn't intend to have it sit empty, of course, and in fact once since deciding to close the shop 6 months ago, she's had a few buyers come forward - but none of them could get bank loans. Hope the lady in the ad isn't counting on a line of credit to pay for her sugar and flour.

So she is paying rent on an empty bakery and taking in cash where she can, for instance via bank photo shoots. Irony, thy flavor is vanilla buttercream.

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