Bakery Owner Rises to The Occasion

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Laguna Beach resident Jonnie Peckham LoFranco owns BREAD Artisan Bakery, Inc. Photo courtesy of Michelle Montgomery

By Barbara McMurray, Special to the Independent

Bread-baking runs in the family for Jonnie Peckham LoFranco, as does resilience. Even though sales at her company, BREAD Artisan Bakery, Inc. have been sliced by half due to the coronavirus, LoFranco has devised creative ways to get her baked goods into the mouths of Laguna Beach residents.

She laid off nearly half her workforce as her corporate accounts vanished or were forced to reduce their orders to a trickle overnight. These included major entities like Montage Laguna Beach, Pelican Hill Resort, Balboa Bay Resort, Marché Modern, Selanne Steak Tavern, The Lumberyard, and two locations apiece for Brussels Bistro and Nick’s.

BREAD’S remaining 42 employees work day and mostly night from two buildings in a Santa Ana industrial complex, totaling 11,000-square-feet of enormous mixers, walls of double-rack ovens, massive rolling bread racks.

“We’re scrambling to make the business work, reinventing ourselves on the fly,” Peckham LoFranco said. “Where we were wholesale-focused before, we’ve pivoted to become more direct-to-consumer. I am now very hands-on, filling orders at our warehouse, going to farmers’ markets to sell retail.”

BREAD goods are now sold at the Butchery’s two stores, Irvine Ranch Market’s two locations, Cortina’s Italian Market, and all nine Mother’s Market locations.

“The retail doesn’t make up for the restaurants being closed, but it’s helping,” she said.

The disruption allows her to pause to concentrate on strengthening the bakery’s product line and building a loyal customer base. Most popular are its artisan breads, old-world, long-process, fermented French-style bread – sourdoughs, baguettes, and brioche.

Each baked item’s authenticity can be credited to the relentless exactitude of her business partner since 2011, Frenchman Yannick Guegan, a lifelong professional baker. However, Peckham LoFranco’s father was the man who inspired her. Bob Peckham opened the first of his bakery-cafes, Breads & Spreads, in Mission Viejo in 1995. When he passed away in 2001, Jonnie ended her career in Los Angeles advertising music production to carry on the family business. In 2010, BREAD Artisan Bakery, Inc. was born.

Peckham LoFranco’s UCLA economics degree and marketing savvy have paid off. A product of Laguna Beach public schools, she juggles running her company with being a single mother to her teen daughters Luisa and Estella.

The good news for Laguna Beach readers and eaters is that BREAD keeps some of its six delivery trucks rolling by offering online orders delivered every Wednesday for neighborhood pickup.

“I think that this crisis will change the way we view food production,” Peckham LoFranco predicted. “People will begin to notice where their food comes from and how they obtain it, because food is not as readily available and grocery stores pose a risk.

She added that the home cooking happening now is opening people’s eyes to what real food tastes like.

“Many won’t go back,” Peckham LoFranco said. “It’s nice now, if you’re home and have the time to do it, but once life resumes some normalcy, people will still want that kind of quality.”

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