La Mexicana Bakery, Texas French Bread are closing, and you're devastated. That's OK.
What a terrible fire and a long worked-for retirement can teach us about grief and our relationship to the hospitality industry.
Death doesn’t always require dying.
Sometimes, it’s a retirement. Or a conflagration.
This week has been rough for lovers of longtime local restaurants. On Monday, La Mexicana Bakery announced it would be closing because the owner — Jesus Becerra, who came to the U.S. at age 14 with $14 in his pocket and had a lifelong dream to own his own bakery — wants to retire.
Early Tuesday morning, Texas French Bread burned. Fire officials have said that the building, which also held a venerated place in Austin’s music history, is a total loss.
As we close in on two years of the pandemic, these losses are not uncommon. Chez Nous, Shady Grove, Mother’s Cafe. The list goes on.
With each announcement, a chorus of cries from patrons arises across the Metaverse, shouting “Noooooo,” sometimes via meme. Because even though it’s “just” a restaurant, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.
Because it’s not “just” a restaurant. Restaurants that stick around for a while become places where we project pieces of ourselves. I’m not French, but I kinda felt like it when I had an omelette at Texas French Bread. I respected the hell out of La Mexicana, serving conchas, orejas and enchiladas 24 hours a day for decades under those mesmerizing green and red neon lights.
When La Mexicana’s Bianka Lopez announced that her family’s bakery would be closing on Feb. 16, she immediately heard from people who saw the restaurant’s closure as a result of gentrification or rising operating costs, but she set the record straight: “Dad is retiring and wants to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Don’t be sad, be proud of what a Mexican immigrant came to build his American dream.”
Let the restaurant die, in other words. It’s OK.
Things don’t have to last forever.