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Orcutt Bakery struggling to reopen after storm damage

Posted at 6:28 PM, Jan 27, 2023

For more than 20 days, a "closed due to flooding" sign has hung on the door of Orcutt Bakery, a locally owned business in the Acorn Plaza Shopping Center off South Bradley Road.

The owners, Shawn and Danielle Gerber, say their renter's insurance has fully denied their claims since the damage was caused by a leak on the exterior roof of the building, forcing them to look elsewhere for help.

"We came home from our vacation on January 4. We always take time off at the end of the year. Our neighbor next door said she could hear water running in our bakery," said Shawn Gerber.

He says his landlord arranged to have a repair company fix the bakery's leaking roof, but Gerber tells KSBY thousands of dollars in damages still remain.

"The entirety of our front house, all of the laminate flooring has been ruined and curled. So I don’t have a bathroom or front house. I can’t open under those conditions." he added.

Gerber says he and his wife have spent the past three weeks desperately trying to get answers from their property managers about when maintenance work will be scheduled.

"Anything but this confusion," Gerber said. "Any solid answer — 'We are starting construction on this date, we are just going to take care of you' — You know, this is a complete lack of maintenance."

Starting on Thursday, KSBY News made multiple attempts to contact M.D. Atkinson, the Bakersfield-based real estate group that manages Acorn Plaza. Late Friday afternoon, we received an email from a company spokesperson who said they are taking steps to address the situation and that they have been working with both Shawn and Danielle Gerber to help them reopen as soon as possible.

In the email, M.D. Atkinson Company Chief Operating Officer Chris Gnekow said, "Soon after the [rain] event, insurance carriers for the property owner and the owners of the bakery were engaged and claims opened by both carriers. Adjusters for both insurance companies have been to the property and are working together to identify the scope of work covered by their respective policies. This process can take a couple of weeks and the process to rebuild cannot take place until both insurance companies are in agreement and authorization to do so has been given."

Gnekow added, "...while things may not be moving as fast as we would like, our sense of urgency to get their business reopened is the highest priority."

On Friday, representatives with the Small Business Administration (SBA) also met with the Gerbers at Orcutt Bakery to fill them in other options.

"They were affected by the storms that began on December 27th and are continuing, so, they qualify for the California Declaration for us to come and provide them with information for a Small Business Administration long-term, low-interest loan," said Zabrina Tipton, SBA Public Information Officer.

However, Shawn Gerber says he is hesitant to hire his own contractor and take on an SBA disaster relief loan since he believes M.D. Atkinson is liable for the damages caused to Orcutt Bakery.

Tipton, meanwhile, advised them to enroll for the loan regardless.

"We just ask people to go in. There is no cost, there is no obligation. So, they can get the application filled out, they can find out what they qualify for. You can qualify for up to $2 million for economic and $2 million for damages to businesses," Tipton added.

The Gerbers say as they wait for their property manager to schedule repairs so they can reopen the bakery, they've been left without a source of income and expenses that continue to grow.

"I still have electricity. I still have my internet, cable, insurance, all those things. You know, it is a couple thousand dollars a month in bills that whether I’m open or not, I still have to pay," said Gerber.

The SBA also has a resource center opening Saturday at Allan Hancock College where representatives will be able to provide assistance in the loan application process.