The Cambrian

French Corner bakes up a new start 4 months after car crash

Miguel, 13-year-old Sandra and Lupe Viveros stand in the main room of The French Corner Bakery in Cambria’s East Village, which will open for the first time in four months since being hit in a vehicle crash.
Miguel, 13-year-old Sandra and Lupe Viveros stand in the main room of The French Corner Bakery in Cambria’s East Village, which will open for the first time in four months since being hit in a vehicle crash. ktanner@thetribunenews.com

When The French Corner Bakery opened again for business Friday, June 23, it was one day shy of four months since a truck rammed several vehicles in the adjacent parking lot. The truck pushed itself and a Mercedes through the bakery wall and into the shop’s café and sales room, and even back into the busy area where the mixing and baking are done.

There’s more work ahead, mostly in cosmetic terms, business owners Miguel and Lupe Viveros said in an interview Monday, June 19. They were surrounded by stacked tables, new espresso and point-of-sale equipment, new but still-empty bakery cases, draperies hung but still with tags on them and mixers on the floor waiting to be placed on work tables.

Ingredient deliveries were to resume the following day, and bakers were to be back on the job Wednesday, prepping for the reopening.

But the shop, its owners, its employees and its loyal (aka hungry) customers are more than ready for the ovens to go on, the baked goodies to go back onto the shelves and the doors to open again.

It’s taken so long, Miguel Viveros said, because it took two months to prepare repair plans and get them through the county permit process, and then project contractor Paul Ferriera had to juggle the schedules of busy subcontractors.

The French Corner Bakery in Cambria was open and filled with customers when a truck crashed into another vehicle and sent it through the wall on Saturday, February 25, 2017.

Lupe Viveros said the hardest part of all this for her has been “not seeing my regular customers here in the morning” and knowing her employees didn’t have paychecks for a couple of months (insurance covered those expenses for a while).

Miguel Viveros said that 11 of their 14 employees will be returning to their French Corner jobs.

The reopening will be welcome news for all of them, but especially for customers who’ve missed the bakery’s vibe and yearned for the shop’s signature products, from ginger or fruit scones and various croissants to bolillo rolls and cinnamon rolls, pesto twists, Danish pastries studded with fruit or nuts, ciabatta and other breads and much more.

Many of those products were mentioned in a casual Facebook survey about the bakery’s reopening.

Barbara Della Bitta of Cambria said she’s missed “everything …a great group of people serving up kindness and yummy pastries, plus the people watching outside is always fun.”

Another woman posted that she misses “the peaceful feeling … just knowing they are there.”

Costs and repairs

Insurance policies held by Viveros and building owner Alvin Ferrar will cover most of the costs, which the bakery owner estimates will be in the range of $200,000 or more.

The Viveros insurance company has already been billed for between $85,000 and $100,000 (including replacement of damaged equipment, furniture and accessories and some salary replacement for employees), according to bookkeeper Jeannie Pudas. She and the Viveroses said the collision destroyed everything in the café area and some things in the kitchen.

One of the biggest items, in terms of cost and sheer heft, was a new 60-quart Hobart mixer that had a price tag of $18,000 and probably weighs about a half ton, Miguel Viveros estimated.

In the collision, the Mercedes plowed into the previous mixer, which had been working hard since the shop opened in 1979 as The Upper Crust Bakery and Tearoom.

Pudas said Ferrar’s insurance will cover repairs to the building, such as flooring, windows, utilities, damaged walls in the bakery and adjacent pharmacy and much more.

Woodsmith Will Scroggins of Moonstone Redwood has recreated a vintage wooden church pew shattered in the collision. It was a popular gathering spot for “the regulars,” some of whom were sitting on the bench when the collision pushed the pew over and on top of them. Scroggins used the pew’s original arm supports in rebuilding the sturdy bench that a couple of the injured patrons credit with having saved their lives because it absorbed some of the crash’s impact and shielded them from more severe injuries or worse.

The new/old pew is back in its spot of honor, awaiting the regulars, visitors and others who buy their treats and sit in the shop for a social hour over pastries and a cup of coffee, espresso or tea.

Back story

The bakery’s sales-and-café area were severely damaged Feb. 25 when a truck driven by Jeremy Preston of Cambria plowed through the adjacent parking lot, crashed into parked cars and pushed itself and the Mercedes inside the building.

The impact of the careening truck and Mercedes injured five people.

On the legal front, Lee Cunningham, the county’s assistant district attorney, said in an email interview Tuesday, June 20, that “Deputy DA Steve Wagner is still reviewing the evidence.” Cunningham added that, “given the status of the case, I can’t disclose or comment on” any results from toxicology testing.

Recovery

Cambrians Phil Taylor, Ruth Armstrong and Mac Van Duzer were injured by the impact of the truck and Mercedes. The Cambrian has been unable to get details about the condition of Elizabeth and Steven Kelly, a Camarillo couple who also were injured in the collision.

Taylor said Monday, June 19, that after treatment and physical therapy, he’s doing “so much better” now, but because “my shoulder, hips, back and ankles still hurt,” doctors continue to order X-rays and other treatment. Taylor said wryly that it’s “a bit of a shock being hit by a pickup when you’re sitting down. It does take the wind out of your sails.”

Van Duzer is recovering from his injuries.

Armstrong said Tuesday, June 20, that she’s completed her therapy treatment after having surgery to repair her leg, which was shattered in four places. “I’m walking and driving now,” she said.

And when she was told that the bakery’s projected reopening date was Friday, the loyal customer said quickly, simply and firmly, “I’ll be there.”

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