Residents on St. Paul's West Side got bad news this weekend when they learned that Jerabek's New Bohemian Bakery, a neighborhood institution for more than 100 years, was closing its doors for good on Sunday.
"Hard to think of the West Side without Jerabek's," wrote state Rep. Carlos Mariani on the bakery's Facebook page Saturday, echoing the sentiments of many as word of the closing began trickling out.
Owners Russell Spangler, Ronda Vincent and John Wills could not be reached for comment Monday to elaborate on their farewell note, which they had posted on Facebook, the day before the bakery closed.
"We cannot express in words the pain involved in the decision to suspend operations at Jerabek's," the note said. "Numerous physical, financial and emotional challenges have made us unable to properly lead and run the business. Our personal obligations and stresses have piled up to a breaking point that we need to address before we lose the things in our lives that are most important to us. …
"We feel shame and remorse that we are so sudden in our inability to continue to serve you, please understand that recent circumstances forced us to act quickly."
Responded one online customer: "No shame! You should be very proud! … Please know that you made our sweet moments even sweeter."
Jerabek's is the second century-old St. Paul independent business to close in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Linder's Garden Center announced it was going out of business after 103 years in the North End because of years of stagnant growth and setbacks sparked by last spring's wet and cold weather.
It's also the latest independent bakery in the metro area to close since last year, many falling victim to competition posed by less expensive and more convenient supermarket and chain bakeries, less demand for scratch-made products and expanding concerns about goods made with gluten.
Bread, Coffee and Cake in Mendota Heights closed in July, after less than a year there following relocation from St. Paul. A note on the bakery's website said only that "the cost of doing business has become unmanageable."
Tschida Bakery in St. Paul and Sweets Bakeshop in both St. Paul and Minneapolis also have closed in the last 15 months. On the other hand, Buttered Tin opened this year in downtown St. Paul, and a third store for the popular Cupcake bakery recently opened in the Merriam Park area.
Jerabek's, founded by Ed Jerabek in 1906, specialized in Czech and German cookies, rolls and breads, but in recent years also had offered sandwiches, wraps, salads and soups. Two years ago it opened a branch in the skyway in downtown St. Paul, which also has reportedly closed.
According to the Facebook page, the closing came as a surprise. As recently as three weeks ago, the bakery was posting photos of a wedding cake, one of its longtime specialties. The bakery held an open house in June with free food, tours and live music.
Jerabek's owners asked the community's help in finding jobs for their former employees.