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Tuesday, Feb 7, 2023

La Brea Bakery Rising in Valley

The bakery credited with popularizing the artisan bread trend in Southern California has completed an expansion that will bring more than 100 jobs to the Valley. La Brea Bakery opened a 60,000-square-foot addition to its Van Nuys facility at 15963 Strathern St. Construction on the $50 million expansion started in May, and the plant was up and running in December. A grand opening was held Jan. 15. Arytza, a global food and specialty bakery company headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, owns La Brea. The company, which has a U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles, owns more than 15 bakeries, restaurants and food suppliers in the U.S., Canada, Ireland and elsewhere. La Brea Bakery was acquired by Arytza in 2001 for roughly $60 million, just a few years after the bakery had moved to the then 77,000-square-foot facility on Strathern Street in Van Nuys. The expansion includes new equipment, and it brings 115 new jobs to the community. The company anticipates an additional 100 jobs becoming available within the next 18 months as the operation ramps up. “There are a couple of reasons for the expansion,” said John Yamin, chief executive of Arytza. “One, this was our oldest bakery and had the most skilled workers in it. Two, when the volume increased and the demand increased, it was a no brainer to expand because of the employee base we have there.” La Brea Bakery traces its roots to founder Nancy Silverton, who opened a retail bakery in January 1989, six months before she opened a fine dining restaurant with her then husband Mark Peel called Campanile, which later closed. The bakery produced artisan flatbreads which caught on with restaurateurs and consumers. As business boomed, Silverton decided to expand from retail to a commercial bakery and relocated to Washington Boulevard in 1991 before settling in Van Nuys in 1998. Today the company sells baguettes, dinner rolls, ciabatta and sandwich bread to supermarkets and restaurants, as well as at two retail locations, one on La Brea Boulevard in Los Angeles and another at Disneyland. Steve Stallman, president of Stallman Marketing, a retail and food consultancy in Santa Clarita, said that the fast-casual category of restaurants has been in growth mode. And while he didn’t know the specific clients of La Brea Bakery, the segment includes Panera Bread and similar outlets that would seem prime candidates for artisan baked goods. But the growth has increased competition. “There are some problems going on right now with the restaurants expanding, which would be a big place that La Brea would sell their product to,” he said. “It’s not all rosy. Although the consumer is enjoying that segment of quality service, not all the people competing in that category are successful.” La Brea’s 17-year-old Van Nuys plant, now a total of 137,000 square feet after the expansion, will allow the company to increase production of its specialty breads. “The new area (of the bakery) will be able to focus more on doing artisan-style rolls and sandwich carriers,” Yamin said. “The old one could as well, but not as efficiently or effectively as the new one can.” L.A. City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who attended the grand opening, worked with Arytza to smooth the bureaucratic bumps on the road to construction. “When La Brea Bakery first mentioned their expansion to my team and me, they were overwhelmed with the permits and procedures,” she explained. “We were able to help navigate the many different procedures and requirements necessary to speed up the open date from 18 months in the future to less than six months.”

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