The moves haven’t been on the table for long, Victor told Crain’s on Wednesday.
“We have always been 100% committed to our vision to keep investing. It became clear that our current business model was not sustainable,” Victor said. “At 50,000 square feet, the bakehouse is big. Only the utility bills are huge. We’ve ramped up manufacturing a lot over the years with (distribution deals with Traverse City-based Cherry Capital Foods), Sysco and Gordon Food Service, then COVID got We’re finally getting back to it The overhead of (the bakery) is not reasonable for our resources We’re going to drastically reduce our footprint.
While the bakery building is for sale, Avalon will operate from a smaller portion, around 5,000 square feet, according to Victor. After a sale, the bakery could continue to operate on part of the space through a lease or look for a new, smaller space in a different location.
Inside the 5,000 square foot Jolly Pumpkin location, Avalon will have its own space to take orders for coffee drinks and baked goods. The businesses will share a kitchen, with Avalon doing most of its baking early in the day and Jolly Pumpkin pumping out its pizza and other menu items later.
Avalon and Jolly Pumpkin are no strangers. Jolly Pumpkin co-founders and co-CEOs, Jon Carlson and Greg Lobdell, are Avalon investors and help run cafes in downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor. Jolly Pumpkin officials confirmed the plans but declined to comment further.
“They helped us expand our little concept to other areas and it worked,” Victor said. “That’s why we were able to keep those two locations open. (Jolly Pumpkin) is also looking to save money. There’s a lot of time in the morning when they don’t use their kitchen. It’s a great place with a bar, a full kitchen. We’re going to take some of the best bits from the Willis space and put them in a section of Jolly Pumpkin.
Midtown Detroit Inc. executive director Sue Mosey said the closure of the Willis Street store is a blow to the neighborhood, but she’s excited about the prospects for collaboration between two of Midtown’s popular businesses.
“This model is one we see across the district and will accelerate as a model for the future post-COVID for a number of other local businesses,” Mosey said in the release. “As the market has changed in all urban districts during COVID, our local entrepreneurs who develop new models in response are much more likely to be profitable in the long run, which is the most important outcome.”
Avalon has more than 100 employees in its operations, including cafes in downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor and inside the Meijer small-format markets in Detroit and Royal Oak.
Avalon will work to transition most of its Willis Street employees to the new Jolly Pumpkin location and all employees will have the opportunity to apply for positions across the company, the statement said.
“I hope they all apply and want to work there,” Victor said. “Hopefully when people come in, they’ll see some familiar faces. It’s going to be a process. Based on how things have gone for businesses over the past few years, I think we’ll see more concepts like this -this.”
The move is bittersweet for Victor. Over the summer, the Avalon owner detailed to Crain the opening of the Willis Street location, down to how the store on the first day of opening had plywood instead of actual doors .
“It’s sad. I’m not going to lie. To have something like this means so much,” Victor said. “We created so much positivity and received so much positivity. Our goal was to create a home and we did. It was a community coming together.
“What’s true is that a lot of people who love Avalon talk about Ann Arbor and downtown. A lot of those people have never been to Willis Street. It’s a spirit that grew in outside of where we started. This spirit in the new space will be created interaction by interaction. There is a lot of sadness, but also a lot of excitement.