“We have been at this for so many years. We have weathered so many ups and downs in the economy, but this was something totally different. You did not know what to expect... Knowing there is somewhere to go for help and support is huge."
Solano Baking Company has remained open throughout the pandemic, building on their "culture of kindness" and giving back to the community with a food pantry and a senior gift bag program
Over the last 30 years, Kendra Benz and her team have created their own community inside Dixon’s Solano Baking Company. Bakery employees greet customers by name, orders memorized. They watch children grow up eating donuts Saturday mornings.
Community has always been an intricate piece of Solano Baking Company but never more so since the pandemic began.
In those first weeks, Benz's thoughts were on her employees, many with her for 10 years or more. For some, this was their family's only paycheck.
She reached out to county health, city officials, fellow business owners from other states, looking for advice and direction. She also contacted the Solano SBDC and was connected with the NorCal Restaurant Program.
She breathed a sigh of relief when Solano Baking Company was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. She was able to keep all 20 of her staff on payroll and any employee who was full-time prior to the pandemic was able to continue that schedule.
One of the first changes in response to the pandemic was eliminating the self-serve creamer bar. In its place, staff created a sharing pantry. They also sold individually wrapped toilet paper rolls for 25 cents.
As other businesses around them were forced to close, Benz said the bakery never took for granted being an essential business.
A colorful assortment of masks, made by a bakery employee, now hang behind the counter for sale. Once a week, employees pack gift bags for senior citizens with Meals on Wheels. The sharing pantry remains open with donations coming regularly.
One silver lining of the pandemic is that it has allowed Benz to reassess her business. She is re-writing her business plan with guidance from her SBDC advisor.
She also encouraged her husband, Gerna Benz, owner of Bay College Planning, to utilize the SBDC for marketing.