LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A well-known Los Angeles bakery is now closed after shutting its doors for good on New Year's Eve.
Longtime customers of the famous Sweet Lady Jane bakery, which had been in business for 35 years, were stunned to find it closed permanently on the final day of 2023, capping off another difficult year for L.A. eateries.
The bakery had locations in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Encino, West Hollywood and San Fernando, with two more on the way in Larchmont and Marina del Rey.
"I was kind of shocked and upset, you know... Obviously, they can do what they want, but it's a big loss to the neighborhood. And to me. Their famous triple berry. And my favorite were the pecan pie and the carrot cake," said Elizabeth Rifkin, who frequented the Santa Monica location.
In a statement, Sweet Lady Jane said in part: "We did not come to this decision lightly nor quickly. While the support and loyalty of our customers has been strong, sales are not enough to continue doing business in the state of California, allowing us to service our lease obligations and pay our treasured employees a living wage without passing those costs directly on to you."
"They were fabulous. Very expensive, but you know. That's why when they say they have to raise the prices. The prices were already really high. Really high. Like $60 for a cake, but I'm telling you, it was almost worth it. It was worth it," said Rifkin.
Sina Shir operates LA Sandwich Bar next to the first Sweet Lady Jane location on Melrose Avenue, which was undergoing renovations. It opened back in 1988.
"Business in this area is tough. A lot of businesses come and go, but I never thought Sweet Lady Jane would be one of them. Myself, I'm doing as much as I can to keep the costs down, but it's difficult. My suppliers, their prices go up," said Shir.
Some customers wonder if the increase in California's minimum wage played a role. The minimum wage in 2023 was $15.50 an hour, and on Monday it went up to $16.00 dollars an hour and is higher in some cities including Santa Monica.
But studies out of UC Berkeley have found increases in minimum wages do not generally result in job losses.
Brant Cox, the editorial lead with the food site Infatuation Los Angeles, says the closure of Sweet Lady Jane - which was part of special occasions for so many - can be difficult to comprehend. But, he points out there's plenty to be excited about looking ahead to 2024.
"More restaurants open on a weekly basis than restaurants close and its tough when these big ones close and it feels like the sky is falling. But, it's important to know and exciting that businesses are still opening," said Cox.
Cakes and pies still sit in the display case at Sweet Lady Jane's Santa Monica location, leaving many customers puzzled as to why they weren't informed about the closure.