With its proximity to Hollywood, Rossmoor Pastries has its share of real celebrity customers, but owner Charles Feder believes all customers should receive top notch service. By adhering to this philosophy, the specialty wholesale bakery pulls in $7 million in annual sales.
Rossmoor Pastries in Signal Hill, Calif. is about 30 miles from Hollywood, and has made cakes for celebrities, such as Miley Cyrus, Elizabeth Taylor, Hugh Hefner and Rev. Jesse Jackson, as well as for TV shows like Desperate Housewives and Dancing with the Stars. Although such a client list can be heady, owners Charles Feder and Janice Ahlgren strive to make every customer feel just as important as the stars.
“Personally, I do everything for the customer that I possibly can, and my staff is like that as well,” Feder says. “Make the customer happy. We'll do whatever it takes to make sure the customer is satisfied.” Feder related a story of a driver whose van had broken down while on deliveries. Before calling the bakery for a back-up vehicle, the driver called all the remaining customers on his route to tell them the delivery would be late.
Much of this drive for customer happiness may stem from the fact that Feder and Ahlgren purchased the bakery in 1988 after it had fallen on hard times. Rossmoor Pastries originally opened in 1962 in a new shopping center in the Rossmoor neighborhood of Seal Beach, Calif., and the original owner sold it in 1982. The bakery's customer base had diminished significantly by the time Feder and Ahlgren turned the retail bakery into a specialty wholesale bakery, which relied less on the neighborhood and more on the many restaurants and entertainment venues that were prevalent in the area. The move turned out to be prescient, and by 1993, Rossmoor Pastries was supplying desserts and baked products to the Staples Center, Dodger Stadium, Anaheim Stadium, Home Depot Center, The Disneyland Resort and many hospitals and restaurants. Annual sales currently top $7 million.
However, Feder never completely gave up the retail element. In 1999, he opened two locations in local supermarkets, where the bakery contributed 6 percent of total supermarket sales. In 2001, the shopping center where the bakery was located was torn down and Feder moved to the current 25,000-sq.-ft. facility in Signal Hill, an area within Long Beach, Calif. By this time, he also had closed the supermarket bakeries.
In the new location, Feder set aside 1,200 sq. ft. for a retail store, using the fixtures from the original store. The new location has 15,000 sq. ft. for production, 5,000 sq. ft. storage room and the rest of the space is divided among a cake preparation room, wedding cake consulting room and offices.
Wholesale accounts for 50 percent of the bakery's sales while retail makes up 25 percent and wedding cakes are 25 percent. The product line is very diverse, from cakes and cookies to breads and rolls, and wholesale customers drive the bakery's product line. Part of this diversity comes from Feder's commitment to providing the perfect product to each customer.
When chefs call him for a dessert for a special event, Feder works with them. If he can't produce exactly what they want, he invites the chefs to come to the bakery where they can collaborate to make the final product exactly as they want it. “You can learn from them,” Feder says. “And chefs really appreciate that kind of partnership.”
This close collaboration helps serve the bakery in the long run because as chefs move from venue to venue, they remain loyal to Rossmoor Pastries, which adds to the bakery's client list.
With a bakery that produces up to 70 wedding cakes a weekend, 50 decorated cakes a weekday and 200 on weekend days, more than 5,000 cupcakes a week and about 175 dozen donuts a day, production needs to run seamlessly. In the decorating room, baked cakes are placed in the cooler where they are pulled for base icing. Then, they are moved down the room to the decorators' table, where a staff of 14 decorators handles the custom cake orders.
Wedding cakes are decorated in a separate area by a different staff of decorators. Cakes are then placed in an 8-ft. by 16-ft. cooler with the order ticket attached, so they can be easily found. The cake decorations themselves also are highly organized, with ribbons stored in an easily accessible, central location and other decorations organized in a separate room full of clearly marked bins.
Production starts at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday and runs until 6 p.m. on Saturday. Cake and pastry orders are produced all day, and the fresh baked breads, croissants, donuts and Danish pastries are made in the late afternoon for the next day's deliveries. The bakery is mostly a scratch/mix operation with only a few frozen products. Wedding cake production is separate from wholesale production, and products for the retail store are pulled from the day's wholesale production.
Rossmoor Pastries has six drivers that begin their daily deliveries at 2 a.m. Rossmoor's fleet of vans run on compressed natural gas. The vans can travel about 180 miles on one tank. Besides being cheaper than gasoline to refuel, the natural gas-powered vehicles also have access to the HOV lanes. In Los Angeles area traffic, that access can cut delivery time in half.
Rossmoor is recognizing cost-savings in another often forgotten area. About six months ago, Feder added a 5,000-sq.-ft. storage space with a loading dock. With all the storage space, he can be more proactive in his purchasing decisions. For example, he can buy a month's supply of boxes instead of just a week's, which provides a significant cost savings. With the savings from packaging alone, Feder estimates that the space will pay for itself in a year. It also allows him to buy ingredients when prices are low, not just when the bakery needs them.
Feder purchased this year's supply of pumpkin puree last year when the price went down after Thanksgiving. “It's actually better a year later,” he says of the puree.
The space also allows the bakery to increase the quantity ordered at one time. “I can buy a trailer or half trailer of something, which gets me pretty good prices,” Feder adds.
The loading dock allows product to be moved directly to the storage room, where a forklift can move the pallets to where they are needed. Stock needed most frequently is placed near the door to the production area. “We used to waste so much time putting stuff away and searching for what we needed on the pallets,” Feder says.
Feder believes bakers must never lose sight of a the important role bakeries play in people's lives. About six months after Feder purchased Rossmoor Pastries, he received a call from a woman in Connecticut. She ordered a birthday cake for her sister, and when she picked it up, she started crying. The customer was flying to Texas that day to be with her sister, and it most likely was going to be the sister's last birthday. All she had wanted was a cake from Rossmoor's. The customer had flown from Connecticut to California to pick up the cake before flying to Texas. “Now, I'm crying,” Feder says. “But it shows how important a bakery is to the families who shop there. You are part of the fabric of the community.”
Location: Signal Hill, Calif.
Founded: 1962, purchased by Charles Feder and Janice Ahlgren in 1988
Management: Charles Feder and Janice Ahlgren, owners; Michael Glover, general manager; Eddie Steele, director of sales; Gabino Manzano, head decorator; Laurel Rubinove, director of wedding cake studio; Kathy Khajavi, head wedding cake decorator; Jose Nevarez, head of production; Diane Bilicki, retail store manager; Eddy Garcia, customer service manager
Primary business: wholesale/manufacturing, 50%; retail, 25%; wedding cakes, 25%
Market served: Los Angeles and Orange counties
Sales: $7 million
Number of employees: 84
Product line: full line of breads, rolls, cakes, cookies, pastries and donuts
Production methods: scratch/mix
Major equipment: vertical mixers, spiral mixers, bread divider, manual bun divider/rounder, automated muffin line, cookie depositor, batter depositor, reversible sheeter, sheeter/moulder, baguette moulder, 3 double rack ovens, revolving tray oven, 3 walk-in freezers and 3 walk-in refrigerators
Plans: add production line for croissants and automated muffin line; grow manufacturing side of business, especially in convenience stores, retire in three years
Bakery supply distributors: BakeMark, Dawn Food Products, Puratos, Atlas A&R Paper, Tharco Container
|Cappuccino mousse cake, 10 ins.||$29.38|
|Fruit tart, 8 ins.||$22.94|
|Brownies, half sheet||$23.43|
|Chocolate chip cookies, dozen||$6.59|
|Bagels, 3 ozs., per dozen||$6.71|
|Cake donuts, dozen||$5.52|
|Parkerhouse dinner rolls, dozen||$3.86|
|Lemon bundt cake, 7 ins.||$8.60|
|Butter cookies, per lb.||$9.70|
|Key lime cheesecake, 3 1/2 ins.||$4.35|
|Mandarin cake, 8 ins.||$22.70|