Our Daily Bread staff (from left) Armando, Laurie, Beto, and Armianca, looking through the oven’s bread racks.
Paul Wellman

On March 4, Our Daily Bread will celebrate its 30th year. We have had the privilege of running a food establishment in this town longer than most, and we’re thankful for our success. It would not be possible without our local and devoted customers, longstanding wholesale accounts, and wonderful staff, both past and present.

In 1981, three novices who loved to bake, but knew nothing about business, decided to take over Rosie’s used clothing shop at 831 Santa Barbara Street. We never imagined our 900-square-foot store would generate enough business to provide our three children with a home in Santa Barbara, wonderful trips, summer camps, all the activities necessary to keep kids occupied, and college educations.

However, none of it came easy. In the beginning, Deborah Strasser and I baked all the pastries, worked the front counter, cleaned, and went home to take care of our families. Ze’ev Zalk was our hardworking bread baker and driver (and, a year later, my husband). Thanks to our regulars, many of whom still patronize us, after the first year, we were able to hire a full-time driver, baker’s helper, and counter person. Five years later, Ze’ev and I bought our partner’s share of the business. To this day, though divorced, we continue working together in order to provide delicious and wholesome products from scratch, of which we are proud.

Like any family, we’ve had our share of tribulations. In 1998, we had an electrical fire that could have been a disaster for our business. Thanks to a regular who helped us dash through the bureaucratic minefields, we were able to reopen in three days, saving us the loss of our wholesale accounts—just short of a miracle in a town where roadblocks turn up at every corner. Ze’ev and I felt this was a good opportunity to expand into the bike shop next door, increasing our square footage and allowing us to update the front-of-house. It was a crazy time, and thanks to the agility of Joe Campanelli (of Campanelli Construction), we never closed our doors during reconstruction.

Fire struck again early one morning on November 11, 2005. As I walked up the street to work, I noticed lots of smoke coming from my block. I thought, “Oh no, not again!” Fire trucks and police were gathered in front of the bakery along with lots of concerned and curious people. A spark from one of our oven vents had ignited, sending flames to the apartment above. This fire did almost wipe us out. We shut down operation for more than three months. Not only did we lose customers, we lost all of our wholesale accounts. We worked hard to regain our wholesale business, and all but one came back to us.

When our doors reopened, customers returned as if we’d never been closed. It was business as usual. This is the kind of community we have. I remind myself—even when I’m jumping through hoops with the city, county, state, Health Department, Fire Department, etc.—how lucky I am to live and work in Santa Barbara and to co-own Our Daily Bread. Please come celebrate 30 years with us. On Friday, March 4, we’ll be serving birthday cake 9 a.m.-4 p.m


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