100-year-old Mama Kayer's Bakery closes

by Eric Schroeder
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NORFOLK, VA. — The escalating price of fuel and flour led to the closing of Mama Kayer’s Bakery in Norfolk. The bakery, which originally was known as Baltimore Bakery when it was purchased by Louis Kayer in 1910, made a range of bread, rolls, breadsticks and frozen pizza dough. It was renamed Mama Kayer’s Bakery in 1958.

“I had thought we would have been acquired by a much larger firm, but I was notified … that they are no longer interested in the project,” Jason Mathis, president of Quality Baking, Inc., owner of Mama Kayer’s, posted on the company’s web site earlier this month. “I want each of you to know that I fought tooth and nail to succeed Mama Kayer’s Bakery in one form or fashion. Sadly, though, the fight has come to an end.”

Mr. Mathis, along with Willie Beachboard, a 24-year veteran of Mama Kayer’s, acquired Mama Kayer’s in April 2007. Mr. Mathis previously was part of ownership of Brenner’s Bakery, which was sold to Mama Kayer’s in the summer of 2004. Mr. Mathis said the tough economy was too much for the bakery to overcome.

“In hindsight, I could not have purchased the company at a worse point in recent history,” he said. “I put everything we had into the purchase of the company. That was done to ensure that another local brand and that 72 jobs were not lost through a corporate purchase. Six months later the price of fuel and the astronomical price of flour and commodities caused us a tailspin of losses.”

Mr. Mathis said Mama Kayer’s raised its prices several times during the winter and spring of 2008 to offset sharp increases in flour costs, and while the strategy allowed the company to break even, it quickly succumbed to more losses when the market crashed in the fall of 2009.

“The losses we incurred were in the hundreds of thousands over the first two years,” he said. “Even though this last year we were back to profit, the demands from our suppliers and creditors for back payment put a negative effect on our cash flow.”

The company’s equipment is expected to be auctioned off this week to help pay off creditors.

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