After nearly 70 years of treats like pan dulce and conchas, La Victoria Mexican Bakery & Cafe closes on today on 24th Street. The corner panaderia and its bright red neon sign have been a beacon of the Mexican American corridor since 1951, when Gabriel Maldonado opened with traditional Mexican baked goods — and for several decades an attached restaurant — in what was then a mostly Italian and Irish neighborhood.
Family disagreements were the bakery’s undoing. “What led to the closure was straight up misunderstanding and greed,” says Gabriel’s son Jaime Maldonado, the bakery’s longtime operator.
Now it’s being evicted by the very family that owns it, according to Mission Local, and the sheriff will verify that the bakery space is vacant by 6 a.m. tomorrow.
La Victoria and its building at 2937 24th Street are owned by a Maldonado family trust, overseen by Gabriel Maldonado’s wife Susana. Jaime took over operations at La Victoria bakery from his father in the 1990s.
Jaime and Susana, his stepmother, have disagreed bitterly over the property. In 2015, a small fire above the bakery displaced the Maldonado’s tenants and soured relations among the trust. The family lost income, were required to make expensive repairs, and eventually, were sued by former tenants.
“They didn’t understand the nature of San Francisco, the nature of insurance, the housing crisis,” says Maldonado of the family trust. “They thought it’d be easy.”
To recoup their losses and leave the rental business, the family trust listed the building in February for $3.4 million. In January, Jaime Maldonado left the bakery. He contracted management to a former employee, Laura Hernandez, and subleased space to a wholesale bakery, Sour Flour, run by Danny Gabriner.
In September, Jaime himself served an eviction notice to Hernandez, requiring La Victoria and its 15 employees, as well as Sour Flour, to vacate the premises. To fight the eviction, Hernandez launched a GoFundMe effort, raising $3,000 of a $25,000 goal. Hernandez reportedly hoped to buy the business, but the trust has no plans to sell it, according to Jaime Maldonado.
Others, like Gabriner, had hoped the Mission Economic Development Agency might buy the building and save the bakery with it. MEDA did enter a market rate bid on the building, but the nonprofit’s offer is unlikely to win out against an offer that could be significantly higher. Gabriner and Hernandez will now move to commissary kitchen space elsewhere, they say.
“I’m deeply saddened, and it’s a gut punch, but it’s been one for a while,” says Maldonado. “Right now we’re just picking at the scab.”
“La Victoria — 24th Street — the Mission — has enriched my life beyond belief,” he adds. “It’s given me a unique neighborhood perspective, a unique perspective on being Latino, a minority, an entrepreneur, being socially minded, and understanding how our community works. No one does it on our own. It was a front row seat to politics... to corruption. To greed, enrichment — to thousands and thousands of stories and people.”
“It’s a fairy tale with a sad ending, to be honest.”