Another Bend institution has been adversely affected by the labor shortage. This time, it’s the Sparrow Bakery Bend flagship location on Scott Street at the Old Ironworks. After nearly two years of struggling to retain employees, Whitney and Jessica Keatman will close their doors to Scott Street, this time for good.
The Beloved Bakery of Bend, Oregon
Sparrow Bakery opened its doors 15 years ago this September. For many, visits to the rustic brick building is a weekly routine. I have stood in line for close to 45 minutes, in the snow, to start my weekend morning with their popular croissant breakfast sandwich.
I’ve sat around their fire pit in single-digit temperature to sip on a cardamom latté and munch on an ocean roll. During the height of the pandemic, I enjoyed their breakfast deliveries. Their lox bagel always arrived just in time to enjoy alongside my second cup of coffee. Sparrow has undoubtedly been the watering hole around which the Maker’s district is centered. They created community and filled many shops with patrons sipping Stumptown coffee.
On their Instagram page, the owners and married couple shared why they were forced to make this decision. “After Labor Day weekend, we will have 6 adult employees left at Scott Street — we need over 20 to be fully staffed,” they wrote. And the pandemic only worsened an existing labor problem. In a typical year, Sparrow interviewed and hired between 30-40 people.
This year, they’ve made over 100 job offers. Unfortunately, retention is low and the average employee lasts less than four months. “The stress of the pandemic for an employer does not end with the labor crisis,” they shared. “Every day I worry about the safety of my staff and their workplace.”
Sparrow Bakery Lives On
The Keatmans have been explicit about one thing: this is not the end for Sparrow Bakery. “I would like to make it clear that The Sparrow Bakery company is not at risk of further reductions to business,” they expressed. “We do plan to maintain our [Northwest Crossing] retail location and wholesale business at full or increased capacity.”
Still, the Scott Street location comes with a lot of history. “I taught myself how to be a pastry chef here, how to be a manager, and how to be a leader,” said Whitney. “We were plagued by the shortcomings of a 100+-year-old building, the recession, constant break-ins, and of course the pandemic.” The old brick building is also where one of Bend’s most famous pastries was born: the ocean roll. “We probably made just over a million ocean rolls out of this facility alone,” Whitney recollects. “Wholly cow, what a number.”
Last year, The Sparrow Bakery expanded into Portland, opening a retail location in the St. John’s neighborhood. This location will continue to operate 7-days a week. Watching The Sparrow Bakery grow felt like a win for all of us. If there’s anything our Bend community can do, it’s uplift our small businesses.
The Last Hoorah
Scott Street will remain open during its normal business hours until Labor Day. Visit them now (closed Tuesday/Wednesday) until Monday, September 6th at the old brick building for an ocean roll and cup of coffee. We’ll be sure to pour one out for the Scott Street homies.