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WC Baking Company Closing on Friday

Update: Celebrated Locust Street baker has been sweet for a decade; there's a disagreement with the landlord.

Update, 2:20 p.m. Tuesday, interview with Denise Vickers and Patrick Ellwood.

It was a case of insult added to the injury of a popular bakery closing.

owner Denise Vickers was sitting at an outside table on the Locust Street sidewalk Tuesday morning. Vickers was talking about the stress of her ownership ending and negotiations for a bakery to continue on the site, when a meter reader vehicle pulled up and a city staffer began to write a ticket for the baking company van at the curb.

Insult to injury. "Aaagh," cried Vickers. She intervened. The van was moved. No ticket ensued.

There is a customer appreciation event at 8 a.m. Friday at the baking company on Locust Street, kitty corner from the Lesher Center for the Arts. The doors will close at noon followed by an event for baking company staff, Vickers said. Then the company will be closed.

"It is with great sadness that Walnut Creek Baking Company will be closing our doors on August 31 2012," WCBC states on its website. "We will miss all of you; our customers, friends, and family that have supported us and helped us grow over the last 10 years."

The landlord's lease price has been going up, said owner Denise Vickers. The lease was month-to-month since March. There was an attempt to "transition" the business to one of the key staff members, Vickers said, but that has fallen through.

There are negotiations now for Denise Ellwood, wife of landlord Patrick Ellwood of Ellwood Commercial Real Estate in Piedmont, to take over the bakery business. Patrick Ellwood on Tuesday confirmed those negotiations.

The lease price going up was "not the problem at all," he said. "There are other factors, but I don't think it's my place to put that forth (publicly)."

Vickers, a Concord resident, said she doesn't know what her own plans are. "I wish I knew," Vickers said Tuesday. "I have an appointment at 11:15 on Thursday. That's as far ahead as I'm planning."

The baking company celebrated its 10th anniversary in April with the publication of a recipe book by Vickers and chef Tim Rosalez.

Walnut Creek blogger Martha Ross (Crazy in Suburbia) tells about throwing a birthday party for her mother: "we bought a light, airy white cake with strawberry chiffon filling — one of the best cakes I have ever eaten … (owner Denise) Vickers' artistry helped put Walnut Creek on the culinary map."

WCBC won a string of awards in the Diablo Magazine Best of the East Bay contest.

Mary Scott August 29, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I've known Denise many years. I watched her realize her dream.......and we all enjoyed it. The WCBC will be missed tremendously. Denise has a good head on her shoulders, and I will continue to support her wherever thus bump in the road leads her. I'm proud of you, girlfriend. I know you will keep on keepin' on. Pal, Mary Scott
Elizabeth August 29, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I agree! I hope she will not retire, and instead look for a showcase spot!
Kate Wagner August 29, 2012 at 06:49 PM
We have loved WCBC since we move to Walnut Creek 5 years ago. Weekend treats, kids' birthday cakes, and more. We will really miss you and hope you are able to relocate.
Sherry Wolcott August 29, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Denise did my wedding cake and it was beautiful and delicious. Sad to hear this news. Best of luck to you Denise and all the staff. I do hope you land somewhere where you can keep on doing what you do oh so well!
Ken Roberts August 29, 2012 at 09:05 PM
If the change in ownership goes through, it would be interesting to see if the rent Mr. Ellwood's wife pays for the location is the same as the outgoing owner was asked for. $10 bucks and a cupcake says it's no where near that high. Sad to see them close. There is some retail space open by Nob Hill off of Oak Grove Road! That would be perfect, get a scone, cookie or cupcake and then I could waddle down to Weight Watchers. Perfection.
WC-Independent August 29, 2012 at 09:44 PM
The landlord owns the building. He can do what he wants. For you non-business folks... RISK - building a business in a leased space. FYI, I loved the bakery. Tell me where I can find a better cookie!!!
Sara Brown August 29, 2012 at 10:44 PM
This is such sad news. Denise did such a great job of creating a viable unique business and now because of the greed of a landlord is losing it all. Ultimately, this is a loss to the city of Walnut Creek. It is the individually run businesses that make Walnut Creek interesting and different, not the generic large corporation chains that can be found in any major city in the USA. It is disappointing that the city does not seem to care! I wish Denise and all her hardworking staff the best of luck for the future.
randi starr August 29, 2012 at 11:46 PM
the best ginger cookies anywhere!
CRE Agent August 30, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Hasn't Ms. Vickers been trying to sell her business and no one would step forward to buy it? Would you rather the landlord leave the space vacant? Think people!
Jen Watson August 30, 2012 at 10:33 AM
I only went there a few times, but I'll miss the loss of yet another familiar WC shop. The landlord can say hello to months of unleased space. I see this happen all the time in Berkeley--20-year-old shops close, leaving the space unused for months until some eager new company takes over and moves out just a little while later.
sharon August 30, 2012 at 04:46 PM
This was a great shop! :( It will be missed. However, Lovely Little Cakes is also doing great cake work in Walnut Creek. If anyone is stuck for Cakes, Cake pops and Cupcakes, visit www.lovelylittlecakes.net. Or 415 730 7500 (WC)
srl99 September 02, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Here's an idea for a new location - part of the space where Marie Callendar was at N. California x Mt Diablo. This mall is a bit tired, which hopefully means good rental terms. This is quite close to WC's "Rodeo Drive", and has good visibility.
Pete Johnson September 02, 2012 at 07:25 PM
On Sunday there are signs in the windows saying the bakery was returning on Friday 9/7 and that they were hiring. Maybe the landlord's wife is taking over as rumored above. If so, I hope she can negotiate a decent lease and maybe hire the employees who lost their jobs if they want to work there.
Elizabeth September 02, 2012 at 08:47 PM
So again, who smells a rat here??? If the landlords wife is taking over, that means he now has to pay the lease on the place??? I'm confused. Someone with real estate knowledge please tell me how the landlord benefited by having his wife take over?
RBYoung September 02, 2012 at 09:22 PM
There is storefront space at the Mercer building that is ripe for a great bakery Denise! Please come back somewhere in the area, small businesses are the best!
sharon September 02, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Lovelylittlecakes can help with your cake needs. Custom cakes, cake pops and cupcakes. Gluten free, dye free and delivered to you free! www.lovelylittlecakes.net
Roger Larson September 02, 2012 at 11:53 PM
The landlord's wife is taking over I think. It's a little suspicious..
srl99 September 03, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Domestic harmony.
lamorinda mom September 03, 2012 at 06:56 PM
There was so many costs, and one of the small business' biggest costs is insurance - workman's comp insurance, (customer) injury and liability insurance, fire insurance and more. If we didn't have such a litigious society, costs would be MUCH lower and small business owners would have a much easier row to hoe.
friend from bay area September 04, 2012 at 07:53 PM
If you'll gather 'round me, children, A story I will tell 'Bout landlord of an outlaw, California sure knew him well. It was in the town of Walnut Creek, A Thursday afternoon, His wife beside him in his wagon As into town they rode. The landlord of an outlaw grabbed a lawyer for a friend, And the wife she grabbed her pen; In the fight that followed He laid that baker down. Then he took to the hills and villas Along the hills so green, Hiding in his palace And he never come back no more. Yes, as through this world I've wandered I've seen lots of funny men; Some will rob you with a six-gun, And some with a fountain pen. RIP Walnut Creek Baking Company – you were awesome and loved by your community
friend from bay area September 04, 2012 at 08:08 PM
hmm I wonder if the landlord was willing to rent to new potential owners? - hmm with already baked plans for the new bakery launch to be owned by landlord's wife, makes me wonder, wonder, wonder?
michael frederick September 04, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Lamorinda mom, It's really funny you should mention insurance. I'm negotiating a commercial lease with a NATIONAL / INTERNATIONAL tenant who, despite having done a number of deals, professes to have no idea what the costs are. My broker is rounding up numbers for them, as we speak, with Schroder Insurance. While a well capitalized big fish can absorb being sloppy, such latitude is usually not there for small businesses. The business know-how is generally worse, as is the ability to absorb unforseen expenses. Compounding this, is the big government / court system that almost necessitates having a bureaucracy to deal with bureaucratic requirements. It benefits large and punishes small. I'd include (in court) things like people taking a dive next to one's business -- I've been named in four of those to date: Settlement amt (I'm proud to say) = $0 total! Just because someone makes great cakes and has great service, does not necessarily mean they have a viable business plan. Property owners have a myriad of people coming at them -- in WC's case ... WC. Property owners who don't mind the store are just as apt to go out of business. Given the information above, I'm hard pressed to make many judgment calls. On a positive note, I was just at a meeting of property owners. Especially in the historic downtown, there is an appreciation that unique (usually local) businesses are a BETTER DRAW than more generic, national, offerings. Personally, I think a mix is best.
srl99 September 07, 2012 at 05:07 PM
As of 9/7 9AM there's a bakery open there. The windows say WCBC, the Best of Diabloe Magazine is on the window.
Elizabeth September 07, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I just hope that the landlords wife kept some of the people who worked there, and that not too many jobs were lost over this take over. I doubt it will be the best of the east bay for long. Would love to hear about who this woman is, and if she has any pastry chef experience.
Friend from Bay Area September 08, 2012 at 04:53 AM
I think the new bakery that's opening up in a few weeks down the street should hire all the old WCBC staff - give them raises AND offer WNBC customers special discounts for making the switch. Take a PLEDGE and make a CHANGE and FORGET YOU Landlord and sidekick good for nothing new owner.
Elizabeth September 08, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Karma is going to bite these people in the butt big time, when the Elegant Gateau:http://legateauelegant.com/ opens up in October in the former Delice's spot. If you go to her web page, she has the most gorgeous cakes.
Eddie September 08, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Ok quit with the shameless plugs, we get it you are from lovlylittlecakes and are excited to see a staple like wcbc go away
Eddie September 08, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Hmmm does this sound like someone with insider information who might just have a hidden agenda? Or is that me just being paranoid thinking this is the landlord posting?
Eddie September 08, 2012 at 10:15 PM
I have to say I did stop in to the new bakery. What do we call it? The windows say walnut creek baking company, the top had the walnut creek part scraped off leaving just the words "baking company" and the lady at the counter couldn't tell me what the new name was going to be. I hope the new owner wasn't the older lady behind the counter texting and scowling at people who looked in and just kept walking. Atmosphere has definitely changed. Good news looks like some of the bakers stuck around so foods still as good. I will probably keep going in to support their efforts, but if they leave or are made to make crap and call it food I just go down the block to peets or even stoop so low as to go to Katys Kreek for coffee. Though if Denise or any of her talented crew get another shop going someone, ANYONE send me and Invite!
Eddie September 08, 2012 at 10:17 PM
OH plus they don't take credit cards now. What is new owner/landlord thinking?

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