After 25 years of making sweet memories as the gourmet go-to for locals celebrating birthdays, holidays and other personal milestones, the owners of La Cañada’s Cakery Bakery have announced they will hang up their aprons Dec. 15.
For Zora and Ray Yasseri, the decision to retire from running the shop at 1119 Foothill Blvd. — the location that’s been a second home for the Santa Clarita couple since the mid-'90s — is a bittersweet one that had more to do with logistics than anything else.
“We came to the end of our fifth five-year lease — we still had another five-year option to choose or not,” Zora Yasseri, 65, explained of her decision-making process with Ray, 73. “We’d thought we’re probably going to want to stop working sometime in the next couple of years. It’s just way too much work.”
Ray Yasseri admitted he and his wife still put in hours of work each morning before opening for a 10-hour shift.
“It’s a highly competitive market. If you want to make happy customers you have to put all your energy into it,” he said. “We thought it was a good time to retire.”
The couple met while living in Tehran and came to the U.S. after the 1979 Iranian Revolution with two small children in tow. They were keen on opening a business, so Zora Yasseri enrolled in a culinary program to hone her skills and picked up baking gigs to build expertise.
They were living in Montrose when they discovered the leasable La Cañada property, which needed a lot of interior work the couple did on their own.
“It was not just empty, it was kind of in ruins,” Zora Yasseri recalled. “I was basically the general contractor.”
They dreamed of expanding to offer sandwiches, doughnuts and other fare, but fate kept the focus on cakes, which now account for about 90% of the business, and pastries.
During the 2008 presidential election, Cakery Bakery participated in a national cookie poll, selling elephant- and donkey-shaped treats to predict a winner (local Democrats purchased 1,076 cookies to Republicans’ 975).
On a recent Tuesday morning, La Cañada resident Joey Kwon picked up a chocolate cake for a co-worker’s going-away party and shared her dismay at the news as Zora Yasseri rang up her order.
“This is really, truly a shame,” Kwon told her. “Every job I go to I bring one of your cakes. Thank you so much. You’ve done so much good service.”
After the transaction, they hugged and Zora Yasseri retreated into the kitchen to blot away grateful tears as her husband looked on, tears in his own eyes.
“We appreciate them,” he said of patrons like Kwon. “If customers didn’t support us, we couldn’t have stayed in business this whole time.”
As for retirement, recreation isn’t on the agenda. Instead, the couple said they’d rather learn new skills and technologies and possibly teach what they’ve learned to future generations. For now, however, they’re content to enjoy the final month of operating Cakery Bakery.
“This whole journey of coming to this country and opening this business and going through life these past 25 years — it was absolutely the best thing that could have happened to me,” Zora Yasseri said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
“I completely agree,” her husband concurred.