Vanik Elchibegian, the owner of Brooklyn Bagel, often praised as the best bagel bakery in Southern California, had a Memorial Day he'll never forget.
An exterior brick wall at his Beverly Boulevard bakery and retail store cracked, threatening to collapse. That forced him to evacuate the building, close the business and search out someplace else he could do the baking for his many wholesale clients.
The bakery, which has been in operation since 1953 and has been in its present location since 1965, is the bagelry of choice for such landmark Los Angeles delis as Nate 'n Al, Canter's, Factor's, Art's and Langer's.
"Our customers are the best, they are so loyal and they stuck with us," says Elchibegian, who bought the bakery in January from the Friedman family, which had owned it for four generations. "We were able to bake from Day One, even though we had to short a lot of our customers. But they understood.
"I'm fortunate to have a lot of employees who are loyal too. Luckily we were able to find another baking facility that has extra space, and we were able to get enough equipment over there to start baking. We've been working 24-7 getting back and running. It's been a pretty hectic.
"There are a lot of people who worked a lot of hours they weren't expecting to this holiday."
Elchibegian says he's unsure when the retail store will be able to reopen. "We'll reopen whenever the landlord is done doing whatever he can to the building," he says. "He's a great landlord and he's doing whatever he can to get the building at least safe enough to go back in so we can get our equipment out.
"But we can't wait for all of that – we've already started buying equipment."
Customers can follow the bakery's Facebook page for updates.
Elchibegian says it's not clear what caused the structural problems. "It happened on Memorial Day — the guys heard a noise and they called me in," he says. "The first thing I said is 'evacuate the building, it's unsafe.'"
The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety came out to inspect and red-tagged the building. Wooden braces have been installed to prop up the cracked wall and a sign warns pedestrians to stay at least 25 feet away.
"The risk is that it will get worse and eventually the roof could collapse," Elchibegian says. "It's really unsafe."
It's the history of the business that's pulling him through, he says. "I'm so proud to be able to sustain this brand. We've got the best customers and the best employees. If we would have been brand new company opening six months ago, we would have been out of business, to be honest."