SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KTVU) - A beloved Portuguese bakery in Santa Clara is on the brink of closing up shop. It has been in business since the 1980’s but now the owner said a minimum wage hike in the new year could cause it go under.
Hidden in a Santa Clara shopping center on El Camino Real is the Portuguese bakery. Inside, the head baker is often hard at work dividing pieces of dough for the next day's customers all by hand. Customers rave about the sweet bread.
“This bread tasted as close to our grandmother's as we could find,” said Victoria Sevilla of Santa Clara.
For many Portuguese families, it's a taste of home and tradition.
“It tastes and smells like nothing you've ever experienced,” said Sevilla. “It's kind of great to have this place to go to when it's rare to find.”
It’s a rarity since the owner said it's one of only two Portuguese bakeries left in the South Bay. The Portuguese Bakery could be gone in the new year.
“Minimum wage how everything is going up,” said Portuguese Bakery Managing Director Gilbert Couto. “I just can't seem to get head of the costs.”
The business is as mom and pop as it can get. It once had 10 employees and now, it's just the owner and the head baker.
Couto said with equipment repairs and rent, he's worried he won't be able afford the roughly two-dollar an hour minimum wage hike in the new year.
He took to YouTube with a heartfelt plea with livelihood at stake.
“We have just been working so hard tirelessly, so hard all these years,” said Couto. “I don't want to become a thing of the past. I want to be a part of the community and keep the Portuguese community going too.”
“I’ve been coming here for almost 10 years,” said Shaneel Sharma of Santa Clara. “He's always been very gracious, humble and friendly.”
Long-time customers were touched by his video message and are spreading the word on social media. They said, if the bakery goes away, it just won't be the same.
“It’s a loss of culture,” said Sevilla. “We have a huge Portuguese population here in Santa Clara and in the Bay Area.”
“It will be a big loss because where are we going to get sweet bread,” said customer Selena Hashimoto of Santa Clara.
“It’s a staple in our family,” said customer Nancy Sharma of Santa Clara. “To see it go away it would break my heart.”
The owner said he's been approached by grocery chains but he's wary of contracting with big franchises. He’s hoping customers will buy gift cards to help him get new equipment to automate production.