Atwater Village - The employees at Proof Bakery have taken over the business.
The popular pastry spot - a mainstay along Glendale Boulevard for more than 10 years - has been sold to its employees, who are now running it as a co-op.
“Decision making will happen in a few different ways, depending on the nature and impact of the decision in question,” said Sarah Brown, who is a baker with Proof, as well as a member of the co-op and a spokesperson for the group.
This arrangement didn’t just happen overnight. The former owner, Na Young Ma, always had a desire to partner with employees, according to Alison Lingane of Project Equity, a nonprofit that began working with Ma in 2019 to help transfer the business to the workers.
“This is a sale of a business. It’s a business transition, but not a cold transition,” Lingane said. “It’s a heartfelt, warm transition.”
Lingane noted that Proof, which has been the site of different bakeries since the 1960s, sometimes has people waiting in line for 30 minutes for pastry.
“They were just outstanding to work with,” Lingane said. “They really keep things going through COVID. They’re really a beloved community institution.”
So how can employees afford to buy a business? By having the business itself - rather than the employees - take out the loan to pay for it, Lingane said. Then, some of the profits go toward paying off that loan, some go back into the business, and some go toward paying the owner-workers. Currently, there are 11 members of the co-op, Brown said.
As for the leadership structure, the management team is overseen by a new board of directors, whose members are elected from among the worker-owners, Brown said. The worker-owners also vote to approve larger financial or situational decisions.
All that being said, will this have any impact on the pastry?
“There will not be any changes to the menu as a direct result of the business transition,” Brown said. “In fact, none of our day-to-day operations are being affected by this change. We are still committed to maintaining the high quality pastries our customers have come to know and love. That being said, as we are moving into the holiday season, you can expect to see more festive items on display in the case.”