A San Luis Potosí bakery with more than a century’s worth of memories managed to survive changes in tastes, demographics, and even remodeling in the city’s historic center, but it finally met its match last month in Covid-19.
La Parisiense, a four-generation family bakery founded by French immigrant Emmanuel Coulón in 1904 during the Francophile Porfiriato era, was the original panadería (bakery) of a company that over the decades expanded to its current 13 successful branches all over the city under the name La Superior, a brand the family founded in the 1950s.
But its flagship bakery, which retained the company’s original name and has been a downtown fixture since its founding, finally admitted defeat last month and closed its doors on a bittersweet Valentine’s Day.
The coronavirus, which brought sales down by an abysmal 50%, was the final nail in the coffin, a representative of the company told the newspaper El Universal.
“We couldn’t get in the black, we couldn’t manage to recuperate. Covid-19 hit us pretty hard,” they said. “… it just wasn’t profitable, especially with the rent that we were paying.”
However, the downtown bakery has been struggling for over a decade.
La Parisiense’s last true hurrah was in the 1990s and 2000s, when it not only had steady customers who bought their daily bread there but also vendors who would buy large amounts of bread to resell on on the outskirts of the city.
In the late 2000s, it was recognized by the city for being one of few businesses in San Luis Potosí that was still operating after a century.
However, it was also around this time that the historic center got a facelift. In 2008, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, driving much renovation and refurbishing of the zone that the bakery blames for changing people’s driving routes and dragging down their sales by 18%.
By the time Covid-19 hit Mexico, La Parisiense was already a sentimental symbol of the company’s past rather than a profitable business. Its true profitability lies in the La Superior bakeries.
It just made hard business sense to close, the spokesman said.
“It was a difficult decision. It hurt us emotionally. It’s a family business, and it weighs heavy on our hearts, but we also have to know when to call it quits.”