Time Out Chicago and Eater Chicago have both kept after that Bleeding Heart Bakery story and the story has become a little clearer— if not exactly uplifting; it sounds like a partnership going bad in a messily public way. As we left the story yesterday, there were 1) Bleeding Heart Bakery owners Michelle and Vinny Garcia, 2) Roots and The Fifty/50 owners Greg Mohr and Scott Weiner, who backed the big new Bleeding Heart Bakery in West Town— and then there was 3) the mysteriously rogue group of employees spouting “Occupy”-ish rhetoric about “taking our bakery back” on a Facebook page called SOB: Save Our Bakery. As we pick it up today, the SOB page is gone (and while no one has said so, we assume the planned fundraiser at Cobra Lounge is dead too), and the Bleeding Heart Bakery twitter feed (presumably coming from the Garcia side) has claimed that “the owners” (whichever subset of #1 and #2 that means) took it down the day they discovered it (which would be last night). An apparent ex-employee tweeted doubts about the latter claim, though, saying that it had comments from the Garcias on it (we don’t recall either way from seeing it yesterday). All this sounds like an attempt to get out of the spotlight so the parties involved can figure out what’s what between themselves.
So what’s the story look like now? As Mohr told the story to Eater, basically he and Weiner went into an equal partnership with the Garcias for the West Town location, and introduced the kind of management needed to make the business work. Baking was consolidated at the new West Town location and according to Mohr, “once we took over the ordering and production, costs went way down, which in turn [allowed us to] sell the other stores’ product at a cheaper price than they ever have.” But this seems to have sat badly with the Garcias, who own the other stores and apparently felt sidelined in some fashion, and they decided to get back into baking at their own stores.
The question we had was— were the Garcias required to only sell product produced in the West Town location, or can they in effect compete with themselves by making their own products at the other locations (which they own outright)? Unfortunately, our attempt to get an answer to that question was met with a statement that Mohr and Weiner don’t want to talk about any of this in public any more. The Garcias, in turn, complained to Eater that “The partnership of West Town killed the stores that Vinny and I independently own, they are hanging by a thread because of an agreement that basically left us with nothing and no way to make a profit.” (Mohr says the Garcias draw salaries from West Town.)
We could be wrong, but what this sounds like is that the Garcias went into business with someone who could run their business better, didn’t like the ways that changed how they work… and now find that, surprise, their old less efficient ways of working can’t compete on price with a better-run version of the same business. Can this partnership be salvaged? Tough to be optimistic if it’s breaking apart when, in Mohr’s words, “our sales are incredible.”