It’s another pandemic casualty in the Bay Area. After 46 years, beloved Berkeley bakery Vital Vittles is closing.
Berkeley resident Naomi Pearce stocked up on a dozen loaves of her favorite bread from Vital Vittles bakery in Berkeley Friday, where she’s been a loyal customer for 30 years.
“We eat it every day. We have the raisin bread in the morning and the millet bread for sandwiches and then in the afternoon, the cinnamon rolls,” she said.
Which is why Pearce said she’s heartbroken to learn the bakery is closing after 46 years.
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“It’s not easy to find organic and fresh,” she said.
For years, the bakery enjoyed a dedicated following. Many people may have seen Vital Vittles’ organic whole wheat bread or gluten free muffins in Safeway or Whole Foods. The bakery also sells to schools and restaurants.
But Binh Tran and his sister, who’ve owned the company for the past 15 years said when the pandemic hit, despite efforts to fundraise online, they just couldn’t overcome all the challenges.
“We have been losing so many accounts, and the cost of our ingredients has been getting really expensive. And it’s very hard for years to raise the price to compete with other brands,” Tran said.
Vital Vittles bread is made with no preservatives, but one issue they faced during the pandemic is that many customers switched to wanting bread with preservatives because they feared they might have to stockpile food.
On Friday, people were trying to snatch up the last loaves as one box filled with 20 was headed toa customer in Palo Alto.
“We’ve been selling out of everything,” Tran said.
For El Cerrito resident Shari Solis, making her last purchase was bittersweet.
“My reaction is extreme sadness because it’s been a Berkeley institution,” she said.
Another company plans to buy the bakery and remodel.
Tran told NBC Bay Area Friday that he’s hopeful they’ll continue to sell some Vital Vittles products but for now he said that he and his sister are saying goodbye to their long time customers.
“It’s very hard for our family,” Tran said.