When the London Bakery closed its doors on Feb. 13 after three years in business, loyal customers and those in the community who have followed the owner’s journey were concerned as well as disappointed at losing their fix of traditional British desserts, including scones, shortbread and Victoria sponge cake.
The bakery had a rocky start. The same day of its grand opening on Sept. 3, 2016, owner Joanne Bennett’s daughter, Paige Duffy, suddenly fell ill with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare nerve disorder that causes paralysis. Just two months later, Bennett was diagnosed with Stage 3-B cervical cancer. Bennett endured, putting her all into the bakery.
“I totally get it that people got concerned when they heard I was closing. But to be completely honest, the reality is that my light’s gone out on baking and struggling to keep the business going,” Bennett says—an emotional thing for any business owner to come to terms with, let alone admit.
Bennett, 47, had health issues starting out that didn’t give her the opportunity to push the business and creatively market the bakery as she had planned. She says it was always self-funded and three years of financial struggle and not drawing a salary took its toll.
“We were running out of money, then I got divorced and it was all up to me. My staff were wonderful. They offered to wait to be paid. But I cannot do that to people—and I couldn’t do it anymore myself.”
Ultimately, she says “it was not having that little flicker of light, my passion for baking gone” that made her decide to close.
Bennett revealed she was asked to set up shop down the hill, and then was in months-long discussions and all but set to take over an existing Ramona eatery—with a full British menu serving a traditional English “fry-up” breakfast (beyond bacon and eggs including baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, fried bread and blood pudding) and Brit lunch favorites scotch eggs, sausage rolls, meat pasties and more. That was, she said, until the owner at the last minute decided to go in a different direction.
“It was such an emotional roller coaster,” she says, a slight break in her voice. “I closed on the Thursday and headed out of town on Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend to Joshua Tree to get away from all the questions and concerns. My customers were so wonderful, and I was sad.”
But don’t worry about Jo, as friends call her. She’s from East London, and Eastenders are resilient and tough.
“It’s sad only because of the customers. I am so, so thankful for my loyal customers. But as much as it’s something I love, when it comes to baking it’s not my passion. And now my light’s gone out.”
What she’s going to do next will be a surprise to many.
“Sing, I’m going to sing. Singing is my passion. It was my career before I came to America, singing in clubs, pubs, at events. If I’m going to doing anything for free, I’m not going to bake, I’m going to sing.”
She also performs reiki, a controversial hands-off healing massage, and helping with her boyfriend’s new business offering alternative healing, specifically quantum energy healing, a natural healing method that utilizes your body’s own life force energy to help bring about optimal wellness.
“I’m all about my higher power and that we’re all on a spiritual path, and I’m embracing and not ignoring it. It’s so strong right now in my life,” she said, clearly excited again.
Bennett says her “spirit guides, my team” were loud and clear that when one door closes, another one opens. “I was hearing their message: ‘when the bakery door closes, the magic will happen.’ And it did. The same day I closed the bakery, my boyfriend signed the papers for his new office in Mission Valley. And I’m getting lots of [singing] gigs!”
When asked what she sings, her response is exuberant. “Everything! Ella Fitzgerald, Adele, Amy Winehouse and Nina Simon, Motown, reggae, everything.”
Bennett recently sang at a Ramona Women’s Club at San Vicente Golf Club, and from that lined up several more gigs–including having a singing residency and doing fun bingo night at Vina Ramona at 636 Main St., starting this Friday, March 8, at 7 p.m.
“Maybe I’ll sing out the numbers–two little ducks, 22, in Ella or Amy style,” she laughs. But she’s sincere when she adds:
“I want to publicly thank Ramona for being so supportive over the last three years and for being, oh my gosh, being behind me from day one. But as sad as it is, it’s time to move on and start the next part of my life.”
Source: Thanks https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/ramona-sentinel/news/story/2020-03-04/london-bakery-says-cheerio