After retiring from the Bank of America at the age of 39, Doña Carmen Elias decided to embark upon a new and utterly different venture: opening a bakery in San Francisco.
Today, La Mejor Bakery is thriving after 30 years in business—and the panaderia just received official legacy status from San Francisco.
Legacy status, which offers perks like inclusion in city publicity campaigns and access to grants, honors the contributions of long-standing businesses and helps to ensure their continued survival. It's the first program of its kind in the country and one that has served as a model for other cities.
La Mejor Bakery is both an anchor and a sanctuary in the Mission, acting as a community base for its Latino clientele who often don’t have other family in the U.S., according to the business’s legacy application.
“It was my dad’s favorite bakery,” said Mission resident Maria Cordova. “He would go there every morning to get his bread and coffee.”
Elias was raised on the sweet smell of pan dulce, helping to take care of small children when she was young herself in various well-known bakeries throughout the city—like nearby La Reyna Bakery and Dianda’s Italian American Pastry Co.—where her father worked. Their family moved from Mexico City to San Francisco in the late 1960s, when Elias was a child.
Her father had died by the time she opened La Mejor, but she borrowed the wisdom and recipes of his friends who worked alongside him in the business of making postres. The bakery is named after one in Tijuana where Elias's father and his friends used to gather.
The panaderia hires from the local community and is one of the largest contributors of pan dulce to the many events along the 24th Street corridor.
With its cheerful painted windows that change according to the holidays, La Mejor is a colorful and sweet-smelling oasis. The cash-only business serves delicious pastries and cookies as well as tamales.
But it’s perhaps best known for its light-as-air conchas, which come in multiple flavors. If you haven’t been to La Mejor, now is the time—it’s simply the best.
Since January, San Francisco’s Small Business Commission has unanimously approved 23 businesses for the Legacy Business Registry, including Swensen’s and Mr. Bing’s Cocktail Lounge. A total of 365 businesses have been added to the registry, which began in 2015.
📍 3329 24th St.
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⏰ 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat. | 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays
Julie Zigoris can be reached at email@example.com