It started with a scaling back of the eclairs.
The owners of The Prolific Oven struggled to find an available baking decorator to hire, so they temporarily made the French pastry in a way that was "less labor intensive." Months later, the job remained unfilled. Without sufficient staff, they had to discontinue some items.
One of Palo Alto's longest-standing bakeries, The Prolific Oven will close on Aug. 31 due to a "severe" labor shortage and increasing cost of doing business in the Bay Area, the owners said Wednesday.
"We just don't see it getting any better," said Regina Chan, whose parents Henry and Sophia Chan bought The Prolific Oven at 550 Waverley St. from Harriet Spier in 1996. "We wanted to pull the plug before things take a bad turn."
Over nearly four decades (the original bakery opened in 1980), The Prolific Oven baked cakes and other desserts for countless weddings, birthday parties, bar and bat mitzvahs and other special occasions. In the end, Regina said, they were unwilling to compromise on quality and reluctant to pass costs onto customers by increasing prices, Regina said. The last time prices rose was three years ago.
"Maybe that was one of the things that contributed to our demise. We weren't willing to cut corners. We weren't willing to cut the quality of the ingredients. We wanted to keep everything the same," she said.
Memories of wedding cakes past, adoration for the chocolate on chocolate, chocolate-mocha and orange-almond cakes and "thank you's" poured in in response to a letter the owners posted on the bakery's Facebook page this week.
The lifeblood of local, small businesses is loyal customers. Without that support, Regina said, she's unsure how establishments like The Prolific Oven can survive. (She also runs her own restaurant, Nom Burger, in Sunnyvale.)
"I really do fear for this area in particular," Regina said. "It's in the power of the people where they choose to spend their money. I hope that I'm wrong and that small businesses and family businesses can continue to thrive in the Bay Area, but it's going to be up to the consumers to really show that."
Compiled by the Weekly staff; this week written by Elena Kadvany. Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? The Weekly will check them out. Email [email protected]