Friday, October 21, 2016

A man with a Stanford MBA and a love of pan dulce to open a Mexican bakery in Highland Park

Ricardo Cervantes, pictured in his Boyle Heights bakery, plans to expand into Highland Park

Ricardo Cervantes, pictured in his Boyle Heights bakery, plans to expand into Highland Park

HIGHLAND PARK — The owner of La Monarca, a small chain of upscale Mexican bakeries and cafes, plans to expand into Highland Park this year with a store on Figueroa Street.

Storefront ReportRicardo Cervantes, who recently opened a La Monarca in Boyle Heights, said he’s confident about the new store’s prospects in a gentrifying neighborhood with no shortage of cafes or panaderias. In fact, La Monarca has been able to attract customers in heavily Latino immigrant neighborhoods, such as East Los Angeles Huntington Park, as well as predominantly white Santa Monica and South Pasadena, where customers can purchase traditional pan dulce with their lattes or a quiche made with vegetarian chorizo in a bright and contemporary setting. “Everybody likes quality,” said Cervantes.

The Highland Park La Monarca is expected to open this summer in a now vacant storefront at the corner of Figueroa and Avenue 59, Cervantes said.

Cervantes, 39, a native of Monterey, Mexico founded the chain after earning his Stanford MBA and looking for ways to capitalize on the Latino market. After the pan dulce he purchased in Los Angeles fell short of what he remembers enjoying in his native Mexico, Cervantes taught himself how to make pan dulce and other Mexican cookies and sweets before opening the first La Monarca in Huntington Park with Alfredo Livas.

Some said the first store’s interior and ambiance was “too fancy” and might turn off customers, he said. Cervantes found such remarks offensive and also took issue with those who viewed the expansion of a Latino firm as a symbol of selling out. Cervantes said Latinos and other customers have appreciated the stylish interiors as well as the classic conchas, cuernitos and other Mexican baked goods.

“Nobody likes something that’s run down,” Cervantes said. “We are deserving of the best – just like everybody else.”

While organic coffees and quiches may not be found in an old-school panaderia, La Monarca customers, whether they are in Santa Monica or Boyle Heights, still use metal tongs and platters to select their bread as they would in any traditional Mexican bakery.

“It’s more democratic” than having an employee pick out your bread, he said. “It’s more democratic.”

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  1. Well, another upscale hipster joint goes in. I guess at least its not ‘culturally unwelcoming’ … or is it?

    • i dont know if this really fits the bill, hipster wise. these places are kind of starbucksy.

      also what storefront do we think this is? there arent any vacant ones on the south eastern corner anymore are there?

      • Agreed. But in recent months, I have been reading so much about how the new Starbucks is for the hipster gentrifiers (one and the same it seems). Besides upscale pan dulce sounds about as ‘hipster’ as it gets. (FWIW – I hate the term hipster).

      • The southwest corner at Fig. and 59 had a walk-in health clinic, which was great. Unfortunately, the owners ran them out by doubling their rent a year or so ago. There’s been remodeling going on there recently.

        • ohhh ok i hadnt noticed that. i was hoping it might be the empty white building on the northwest corner but they still have for lease signs up.

    • Not if it’s run by Latinos. We don’t tend to be as exclusionary as HP’s touchy “white pioneers,” who are so miffed at not being seen for what they think they are: the saviors of ghetto neighborhoods, making them “safe” for vegan kombucha-swilling (sorry; “switchel-swilling” – kombucha is SO 2014) hipsters.

      • Agreed. But in recent months, I have been reading so much about how the new Starbucks is for the hipster gentrifiers (one and the same it seems). Besides upscale pan dulce sounds about as ‘hipster’ as it gets. (FWIW – I hate the term hipster).

      • Who are the touchy white pioneers?

      • what is switchel? and what does it matter if he is latino, in this case? he doesnt live here and he has other chain locations all over the city…how does this not count as an outsider trying to make money of the neighborhood changing by opening another upscale store?

      • “Not if it’s run by latinos” – I guess you missed the part of the anti-gentrification protest where they tried to evict a latino small business owner.

      • so let me get this straight. if a latino opens an “upscale” business in highland park, that’s cool…but if a white person does it, they’re being “exclusionary”?

        hmm…it sure sounds like what you’re really saying is that you just don’t like white people. you seem really touchy about it, too.

        • “so let me get this straight. if a latino opens an “upscale” business in highland park, that’s cool…but if a white person does it, they’re being “exclusionary”?”


          No standard like a double standard.

          I don’t give a damn about the ethnicity or personal locale of the business owners in my neighborhood. I only care if they run a fair & honest business.

          To the folks at La Monarca; welcome to the neighborhood & good luck.

          • Theres nothing fair about fair. Heard many things from their employees. But they can’t confirm it cause they [immigrants] “won’t find another better job than this one”.

      • @fritanga racism helps all situations, kudos

      • What’s a switchel?

      • What else is cool as long as it’s done by Latinos? Flipping? Evictions? Please tell me more.

  2. Proper dos likes thiings that are run down.

  3. I am thinking this might actually be considered culturally unwelcoming as it appears to skew toward being upscale but then I never understood the culturally unwelcoming argument so what do I know.

    • its a business… it’s legal… it’s going to open and probably thrive… love it-hate it but accept and deal with it

  4. It’s DULCE not DUCLE

  5. @bma831 So wait … if you open a business in Highland Park but you don’t live in Highland Park, you’re “an outsider trying to make money off the neighborhood”? Can I assume you yourself never patronize any Highland Park businesses whose owners you do not personally know to live there? And I can also assume that you yourself never patronize businesses in other neighborhoods, which would make you an “outsider” bringing in “outside” economic interests that might encourage “outsider” businesses to locate in those neighborhoods? Highland Park is not a bubble, it’s part of a city, regional, state and national economy and that kind of hyper-local provincialism gets you nowhere.

    • i was just saying…that is how these new businesses are often criticized, “outsiders” cashing in etc, and that just bc this guy is latino should not spare this place the same criticism if that is really the issue people are upset about.

  6. What happened to the American Dream? Outsiders?? Stop hating on people trying to their thing.

  7. As it is right now, you have to wait for a seat at Antigua or kitchen mouse on the weekend. So another place where you can stroll to, and stay for a coffee and a bite, will be very welcome.

    • Either that, or it is destroying the very fiber of the neighborhood.

      • I think it’s only being portrayed like that online and a couple of sparse protests. Walking through the neighborhood it doesn’t seem so dire. It certainly doesn’t feel like the class war zone that eastsider and many other websites make it out to be. Plus, who doesn’t like baked goods, barring celiac extremists….

        • No doubt Mid Century. FWIW, the best best pan dulce I have had in the hood is from La Perla up on Fig. Its a weekend tradition.

          • Man, I have always skipped past that place! Delicias is my mainstay. Elsa’s Bakery make a similar (more buttery, more sugary) style of pan to what I feel Monarca does – both blow the traditional panaderia’s out of the water with some of their versions of the classics.

            Anyway, thanks for the tip and I will stop in to Perla’s tomorrow morning to try things out!

  8. Martin Arredondo

    What’s wrong with outside money coming in. The minimum wage earners and section eighters are not helping the community. They only make things worse.

  9. La Monarca has delicious food and great coffees. They are very wise to set up shop near Metro stations. There’s one right at the S. Pasadena station and the Mariachi Plaza station. I’m excited they are going to be steps from the Highland Park station. Can’t wait. They have really yummy Mexican hot chocolate!!!!

  10. I’ve been to the LaMonarca in South Pasadena a couple of times and I love it. Everything seems to be of very good quality and delicious! Keep em coming!

  11. Yum.

    I can taste the gentrification!

  12. I’ll be checking this place out this weekend. A great addition to the barrio and excellent example of how being inclusive and progressive is the ideal way for a business to introduce themselves into an established neighborhood with long-time residents eager for quality they can recognize. Maybe some will finally learn that quality and gentrification are NOT necessarily mutually-inclusive.

    Viva La Monarca! . . . (Although I should probably exercise a little restraint until I check out their prices?!).

    • Please, how are they being “progressive and inclusive” any more than any of the other new businesses in the area? La Cuevita, Sonny’s Hideaway, HLP Cafe,, Good Girl, the Greyhound? Just because a business doesn’t fit into your barrio worldview doesn’t make it less inclusive for the rest of us.

      • C’mon eastsidearts. You know the difference! He’s a Latino. That’s the only way to be “progressive and inclusive” to the racist proper douche.

        • Martin Arredondo

          He won’t be able to afford it on his minimum wage.

        • I know, I’m just hoping he’ll be honest and tell us himself. It’ s a lot of responsibility resting on one hombre’s shoulders, speaking for and giving identity to all of NELA’s “barrios”. I don’t know how he does it……..

          • “Thanks” FARTS, It’s a thankless job but somebody has got to add the fear of an educated Chicano into your insecure, guilt-ridden, and paranoid psyches. Whether we’re posting on these message boards daily or not, we are a daily reality of the streets in our NELA barrios . . . Expect Us.

          • el pequeno grande, thank for for once again confirming your obsessive, narcissistic self absorption. The assumptions you continue to make about those of us, or just myself, posting here are laughable and betray your self appointed status as an “educated Chicano”. Educated people don’t behave the way you do. Go to your room.


          • @Pooper Doos : I’m sure my educated Latino friends would be thoroughly embarrassed having you as an ambassador for the group.

          • @Pooper Doos : I’m sure my educated Latino friends would be thoroughly embarrassed having you as an ambassador for the group.

          • “Thank you” both for fueling my “obsessive, narcissistic self absorption.” and your own obsession with my “obsessive, narcissistic self absorption”. I sincerely appreciate(?) the attention. Btw, I’m embarrassed for anybody with self-identifies with the self-loathing homogenizing term of “latino”, which I’m not. I’m American of MEXICAN descent who self-identifies as Chicano and I’ve never aspired to be anything less.

          • “I’m sure my educated Latino friends . . .” and in plural even?!? (lol) Bogus Freedom, you are such a stereotypical gringo. Otherwise, you would know that only folks (and transplants) with poor credit need co-signers. You don’t see me citing the endorsement of “anglo” friends for my personal opinions. I’m not so insecure about social diversity that I require their constant reassurance. Time to free your mind and allow your body to follow it into the millennium . . . “Bienvenido!”

          • I really don’t think about you that much, it takes me mere minutes to respond to your inane rantings.

            attendez -moi,


    • this doesn’t even make any sense.

  13. Anyone who’s been brave enough to ignore the stares, snickers, and lack of labeling in a panaderia knows that this stuff is AWESOME and very affordable. One key thing Monarca does is clearly label in english and spanish the names and the general contents of all the different types of pan dulce and cakes they sell. Other than that they are a straight up cafe and they’ve got a lot of cash or just good management that makes sure the place is pleasant for a mainstream crowd.

    The pan dulce joints in town aren’t ambitious enough or are satisfied with serving a spanish speaking population that is intimately familiar with all the varieties of baked goods they make. Monarca makes it super easy to gain a knowledge of the names of the foods and to taste some great examples of these as well. Since their prices are a little higher, they make a richer pan (depending on the recipe).

    Pan dulce is about to it the mainstream in the US and places like Monarca are going to be a big reason why that happens.

    • “Monarca makes it super easy to gain a knowledge of the names of the foods and to taste some great examples of these as well”. Sounds like an inclusive and successful business model that the community can and will support.

      Viva la Monarca!

      • Actually the anti-gentrification crowd views places like La Monarca and Primera Taza as trojan horses for gentrification because of their accessibility to other cultures. Meanwhile chain stores like Fallas Parades, which provided sanctuary for minutemen, gets the red carpet rolled out.

        • I view places like “La Monarca” as an example of “gentefication”. Tastes and culture evolve and in this country I only insist on inclusion and accessibility for all not displacement or outright disdain for any one who can’t afford to participate.

          • Oh Lord, “genteification” is really xenophobic hate speech for some Chicano/a setting up a “nicer” taco stand in Proper Dos’s “barrio”. ¡Dios mío! indeed.

            fürchte mich,


      • Proper Dos, I don’t know you but I think I’d like to.

        Anyhow, since you are a self-proclaimed “educated Chicano” I thought you would appreciate some wisdom that I have picked up along the way, as well.

        You like to use a lot of quotes in your posts so I thought I could help clarify this for you:
        Rule 3a. Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks.

  14. Martin Arredondo

    It’s not your barrio douche. Never was. You just squatted here for 40 years. Go back to the mud hut.

  15. Everyone is missing one major point. Pan Dulce sucks!

  16. I am a lifelong residence of Highland Park, who moved into the neighborhood when it was almost all white. When immigrants from other countries moved into Highland Park and started to stucco these Gorgeous craftsmen houses, put up chain link fences and concrete and wrought iron walls. When gang activity began to grow like weeds and they started tagging walls like Picasso on speed, causing property values to drop, nobody said anything. The people who were not happy with what was going on, just left.
    Now, that outsiders from other areas of Los Angeles want to move into Highland Park some people are saying it’s wrong and they shouldn’t be allowed to open businesses here. Last time I checked this was still America and the people still have the right to move and open businesses wherever they want. I like having restaurants near by and not having to go to Pasadena or Glendale to eat or shop. I like having chain stores like Big 5, Starbucks and Subway (i’m the guy who opened the Subway on Fig and Ave 57) and independent places like The York and the Greyhound. Why there are parts of gentrification that are diffidently bad, you can’t tell people their not allowed to make money on their investments or that neighborhoods can’t grow or improve. Lincoln Heights is next, so instead of wasting your time complaining, go to school, get an education and grow as the neighborhood does.

  17. I don’t like pan dulce but I support a new business on Figueroa. That corner spot has been empty for a long time. It’s unfortunate the clinic could not stay and that’s really more important to me than gentrification. Having said that Figueroa has been designated at a Great Street project by the City. It’s about time some dosh comes to this hood. Be proud of what this area was and how it has evolved. This hood was white before it was latino so all the hating is lame. If you want kids to aspire to bigger things than shit on every block is a drawback. Geezus this is just a bakery we’re talking about and as a Latina we should be proud this Dulce Dude is working it in the hood. Can’t we all just get along and pat anyone on the back for trying something? Starting a business is supreme sacrifice and you have to respect those who take the plunge. It really is a plunge…

  18. I totally get it. I understand no one wants to be forced out of their home or business because the landlord has decided they can make double the rent. But, I want to know where were are all these angry grassroots activist when it came to rising up again 18th street, MS or The Avenues? We have no problem taking on rich yuppies, but psychotic knuckleheads that terrorize our hood for decades, that’s not our problem?

    • Really good points. I wish we could take all this bickering and use the energy to contribute positively instead.

  19. One word .Portos.

  20. Judy martine,z

    Love LA Monarca in South Pasadena. Love their pan dulce, pineapple taquito, and their chicken mole sandwich!

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