Once Named Yelp's #1 Bakery In U.S., Izola No Longer Reopening In Original Space In San Diego's East Village

March 8, 2024

Once named the #1 bakery in the United States by Yelp, Izola has announced it is unable to return to its original cafe space in San Diego's East Village after shutting down last fall due to violation of food permit requirements.

In early 2020, Jeffrey Brown and Jenny Chen returned from a trip to Europe to find themselves in forced quarantine together. After jumping aboard the bread-making trend that emerged in the early days of the pandemic, the duo began selling their breads and pastries from a tiny space above Brown's former photo studio in a building on 13th and G streets in San Diego's East Village. Using rock climbing equipment, the couple would take pre-orders and lower a rigged basket to the sidewalk beneath to maintain social distancing with customers. 
On their first day in business in June 2020, 12 croissants were lowered from their third floor window to customers below. The word quickly spread and curiousity of the operation flourished, as did the couple's passion for their newfound hobby-turned-business. As the pandemic subsided and restrictions were lifted, Izola repurposed the former photo studio into a cafe space for customers to enjoy their baked goods with coffee and live musical performances. The space eventually became a destination for hungry customers with long waitlists and lines out the door. Demand grew to a boiling point when in June 2022 crowd-sourced review platform Yelp named Izola the #1 bakery in the United States
Izola operated for more than three years at 710 13th Street with only a Class B Cottage Food Operation food permit issued by the Department of Environmental Health and Quality Food and Housing Division, which is typically limited to extremely small businesses making food products in their own home kitchen. Because they were operating a far larger operation than their food permit allowed, late last year the bakery was forced to either scale back its operations or substantially upgrade the kitchen and restaurant space. Izola ultimately closed its East Village bakery last fall, hoping to perform renovations necessary to reopen in the space in early 2024. 

"Over the past several months, we've hit many challenges along the way, which is an expected part of renovating a 100-year-old building...and we've worked through them," wrote Jeffrey Brown in an email to Izola subscribers. "Until now......During the 2nd review of the 13th St. plans, additional requirements were placed on the renovation, such as the requirement to increase the structural capacity of the dining room up to 2024 standards in order to obtain our kitchen renovation permit..... to 140,000 lbs. Argh....that was a sucker punch. And it's just not economically feasible. With a heavy heart Jenny and I have decided that IZOLA must move. Heartbreaking! We raised our son at 13th St. We started IZOLA at 13th St. And we met all of you at 13th St."
Izola ownership claims they are already in discussions regarding three potential new locations, but they are asking their following for suggestions for an ideal spot for them to reopen their bakery. The company is even offering a year worth of free croissants (52 six packs) to the person that connects them to their new home.
For well over a year, Izola has promoted planned to move into a 4,790 square-foot building in the Azalea Park neighborhood of San Diego's City Heights in order to scale their operation to meet demand. In addition to opening a new production facility and cafe, the team hoped to purchase a bake truck in order to ship their breads and pastries to eateries around the city, as well as launch an Izola bake-at-home program. . IZOLA has already received more than $1.6 million in investment funds through Mainvest, but claims it is not enough. Ownership claims that building their zero-emission dough factory and bakeshop is a $7.5 million dollar project.

"Currently, IZOLA is licensed to sell food to consumers from its current location at 710 13th Street (Ste 300) San Diego, CA, under a Class B Cottage Food Permit issued by the Department of Environmental Health and Quality Food and Housing Division (the “DEH”)," explained the Izola team on its Mainvest page when it closed last October. "The Class B Cottage Food Permit requires that a permittee have no more than one full-time equivalent employee (other than owners and their immediate family and household members) and no more than $50,000 in annual revenue. IZOLA currently exceeds those limitations (IZOLA currently has 16 full-time employees and generates approximately $150,000 in monthly revenue)."

Class B Cottage Food Operation businesses are legally not permitted to have more than $150,000 in gross annual sales in a calendar year, but Izola was surpassing that limit on a monthly basis. The company also had between 16-33 employees, whereas licensed Cottage Food Operation are limited to only having one non-family employee.

For more information about Izola Bakery, visit izolabakery.com.