DOWNEY - "We'll be open by the end of this month."The words were spoken in firm, clear tones Tuesday at the downtown Downey site of Porto's Bakery by its architect and contractor, Leo Pratt, drawing a startled glance from Betty Porto, vice president in charge of community relations. "We're already behind schedule," Pratt continued. "Anyway, we should be open at least three or four weeks before Thanksgiving." That's well and good, Betty Porto seemed to say but agreed that everything was basically in place, and that the main reason for the delayed opening (its doors were originally planned to open last May) were the slow deliveries of some of the bakery's deluxe equipment and material. Distinctive amber light bulbs, for instance, to enhance the pastry and mousse displays' coloration, came all the way from Germany. Special tiles were ordered from Italy, and so on. "You know how it is when you want everything to come up as perfect as possible," she said. "My brother, Raul [who is company president], wants to make a plan change here, an improvement there. Before you know it, time has passed." "But no problem," she said. "We've learned a lot from our operations in Glendale and Burbank, and we've tried to incorporate them here." Among the amenities to be found at Porto's, for instance, will be a meeting room on the second floor where groups can meet, basically for the price of Porto's coffee and food. It will feature a large TV and other state-of-the-art electronics. The next few days will be devoted to landscaping and the like, she said, even as the parking structure at the rear is being rushed to completion. Inspection by city officials is scheduled this week. At any rate, she said the city has been very helpful, and the people of Downey welcoming. "Initially after we open," Porto went on, "Downey's front-of-the-house' managers and leads will be backed by some of our experienced managers and leads from our two other locations. Training has been underway for sometime now for our bussers and servers. They've all been hired here in Downey." A full staff complement here, she said, could easily number 70-90 people, to start. "And then we can hire more, probably part-time people," she added. "The important thing, come opening day," Porto continued, "is not to overburden your employees. We're expecting a huge turnout. When we opened in Burbank in 2006, some 3,000 people were already lined up outside the door, and Burbank is a smaller facility than here. So we have to do it just right. We really don't need any full-blown publicity. We're pretty sure word-of-mouth has already done its job." So the dream of the city's downtown planners, of everyone who's heard of Porto's famed pastries, is soon to become reality here in Downey. For them, and others, it can't come soon enough.
********** Published: October 14, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 26