Monday, February 21, 2011

Company Converts to Worker Coop in Recession

Oakland North
The late Neldam’s bakery is reborn, with workers in charge and treats as diverse as Telegraph Ave.
By: Alyssa Fetini | September 11, 2010 – 12:00 pm

There is a new bakery in town—sort of. When recession-related woes forced Neldam’s Danish Bakery on 34th St. and Telegraph Ave to close its doors in July after 81 years in business, its longterm employees banded together to give the Koreatown staple a fresh start.

“When Neldam’s closed, I thought to myself ‘what am I going to do now?’” said Mark Davis, who had been a baker at Neldam’s for 37 years.

Less than three months later, Davis has an answer. With the help of the building owners and investors Kevin and Sukhee Yoo, Davis and twelve of Neldam’s former employees, many of whom have worked together for decades, have formed a co-op to reopen the bakery under a new name: Taste of Denmark.

The new, employee-run Taste of Denmark, which opened for business on September 9, will give the employees a stake in the business — an added incentive to see it succeed.

“Now the former employees can not only have their old jobs back, but be owners and put more passion into the bakery,” said Sukhee Yoo.

The veteran employees and new managers say they hope their perspective on the changing needs of their customers will help Taste of Denmark avoid the same fate as Neldam’s. “Before, it was a very Danish style bakery but now we realize that we need to cater to the Asian- American community, the black community and Hispanics,” said Yoo, referencing the area’s increasingly ethnically and culturally diverse population.

Though Taste of Denmark will feature all of Neldam’s standard pastries, such as croissants, turnovers, cakes and (of course) danishes, plans for Asian pastries, tres leches cakes, and sugar and gluten- free options are underway. “We’d like to think that anyone can come in here and ask for something, and although we might not have a lot of it, we’d at least have something for everybody,” Davis said.

Oaklanders have already welcomed the bakery back with open arms. By 8 a.m. on opening day, Taste of Denmark was already full of customers—some new, eager to try out the free samples on the counter, and some faithful devotees. “I’ve been coming here since the 1940’s” said self-proclaimed regular Madeline Wells. “The people here are amazing. The pastries are like nothing I’ve ever tasted. This place is in a category all its own.”

A Taste of Denmark is located at 3401 Telegraph Ave. The hours, as of Sept. 9, are 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m. weekdays; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays.

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