Loaves and Fishes

Andy's Pet Shop, Plate 2

You win some and you lose some. A couple of businesses in San Jose, neighbors on The Alameda, have found themselves on opposite sides of Fortune’s wheel. Greenlee’s Bakery happily is on the ascent, whereas Andy’s Pet Shop has sadly sunk beneath the horizon, never to shine on The Alameda again.

Technically it’s not Greenlee’s Bakery per se which is enjoying good fortune, but rather its flagship product, Greenlee’s Best Cinnamon Bread. Its popularity has increased tenfold in recent years and continues to grow and with good reason: it’s fantastic.

Christmas Eve, 2009, I was driving around town looking for gifts for family. Don’t judge; that’s how I roll. I was headed to a bookstore to pick up some goodies when I pulled up behind a Greenlee’s delivery truck at a red light. It was as if the heavens opened up and The Voice proclaimed, “Get thee to Whole Foods.” So I gat, and I got loaves of cinnamon bread for everybody, and they loved it. The first thing you notice when you pick it up is how heavy it is. The next thing is the amazing aroma. My car smelled like an enchanted gingerbread house by the time I got home with a half-dozen loaves in the back. Open up the bag, peel off a marbled-spice slice, pop it in the toaster to caramelize the gooey glaze, slather it with something sinful, and the result is pure joy.

Whole Foods Market is in fact how the bread is taking off. After catering just to locals who kept the secret well, Greenlee’s a few years ago widened their reach a smidge by branching out to farmers’ markets around the Bay Area. A Whole Foods buyer discovered the bread in Redwood City and now loaves are sold in Whole Foods stores up and down the West Coast. They’re not done; the Southwest and Midwest are next, and they’re talking about going national by the end of the year. Every loaf is still baked right at Greenlee’s Bakery at 1081 The Alameda alongside an assortment of event cakes, cookies, and muffins, though I imagine they’d have to add capacity to keep up with national demand.

In stark contrast, at the end of the block Andy’s Pet Shop has sadly vacated the premises after sixty years at that location. The iconic neon sign out front has been a landmark for decades. The building used to be a California Highway Patrol office, but after Andy Camilleri and his wife Geraldine took over it became well-known for its selection of unique and exotic animals and birds. After the Camilleris died the business changed hands a few times and is now owned by Lissa Shoun and Eric Bong who changed it over completely to a rescued pet adoption center supported by pet food and supply sales. It was the noblest of endeavors but sadly business dropped off so they had to move out. The animals were placed in temporary foster homes, the inventory was put in storage, and the neon sign is coming down. The owners are hoping to find an affordable location so they can open again. Their web site has a link where you can donate via PayPal to help defray the expenses of moving and preparing a new location.

The Alameda won’t be the same without Andy’s snails and puppy dog tails, but at least we can console ourselves with sugar and spice from Greenlee’s. Did I mention you can order it online?

Greenlee's Cinnamon Bread

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