The Village Bakery is pulling out of The Barlow, redirecting its four-month effort to recover from the devastating losses of February’s flood and leaving the Sebastopol marketplace without one of its anchor tenants.
The bakery announced on social media Tuesday that it had reversed course after months of assuring customers it was working toward restoring the 3,500-square-foot production kitchen from which it supplied cafes and restaurants across the region and walk-in customers.
It remains unclear what owners Patrick Lum and Teresa Gentile plan next, though Lum said Wednesday they remained committed to opening a new retail location undergoing renovation in Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village. The opening at the former Michelle Marie’s Patisserie is expected sometime late this summer.
The bakery also plans to open a kiosk at Pacific Market in the Town & Country Shopping Center, near the long-time bakery/restaurant it closed in the wake of the floods. Patrons will be able to purchase hearth breads, pastries and cakes at the kiosk, the bakery said.
As for production facilities to replace those previously located at The Barlow, “We just can’t really comment on that right now,” Lum said Wednesday, suggesting there may be more news next week. “It’s a little tough right now.”
The couple have endured an arduous few months, beginning with the high toll paid when the Laguna de Santa Rosa spilled its banks in Sebastopol in late February during the worst flooding on the Russian River in about a quarter century.
Though business owners had long been assured that flood-protection measures at The Barlow would protect their shops, the property was overwhelmed by the swiftly rising water, and the flood protection system was never fully deployed, leading to massive losses at the 12-acre complex.
The property sits in the floodplain, but like many tenants, Village Bakery had no flood insurance because of its prohibitively high cost.
The flooding laid waste to the bakery’s production facility, from which it served more than 200 commercial accounts, including retail stores and high-end restaurants. Lum and Gentile closed the site indefinitely and laid off 60 employees in what the couple called a “heartbreaking” move.
The stress proved particularly grave for Gentile, who suffered a serious heart condition and was hospitalized for several weeks in the immediate aftermath of the flood.
The bakery’s exit from The Barlow follows that of Zazu Kitchen & Farm, a prominent Sonoma County restaurant that was all but restored and ready for occupancy, when owners John Stewart and Duskie Estes suddenly announced in April they would not reopen after all because they had been stymied in their desire to seek compensation for their losses from Barlow owner Barney Aldridge.
Aldridge said Wednesday that everyone who wanted to return after the flooding is back in business, and that the Village Bakery space has been ready to reoccupy for a month.
He said he was informed last week that Lum and Gentile wanted out of their lease but received no explanation and agreed to let them go.
“You never know what drives people’s decisions,” he said.
Aldridge said the complex remains more than 90 percent occupied, with only six businesses not returning after the flood, including Zazu, Village Bakery, Tamarind, Friedeman Wines, Circle of Hands and Barlow Clay.
He said leases for all six spaces are in review by potential tenants, with terms already negotiated.