Maker: La Monarca Bakery — The Smells and Flavors of Home

Ricardo Cervantes and Alfredo Livas both grew up in Mexico but didn’t meet until Stanford GSB. They agreed on one thing: They missed the bakeries of their youth.

November 01, 2020

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Alfredo Livas (left) and Ricardo Cervantes at one of their 12 La Monarca Bakery outlets in Los Angeles. In describing the chain, Cervantes says it’s “as if a Mexican bakery and Starbucks had a baby.” | Steve Goldblum

“If you grew up in Mexico you grew up going to bakeries every day, the smells and the flavors, just the experience of picking the bread,” says Ricardo Cervantes, MBA ’03. “Nobody goes angry into a bakery.”

Editor’s Note

As part of Stanford Business magazine, “Maker” is an ongoing series that uses annotated photos to tell the stories of manufacturing businesses overseen by Stanford GSB alumni. Ricardo Cervantes and Alfredo Livas, both MBA ’03, are the founders of La Monarca Bakery in Los Angeles.

Cervantes and his partner, Alfredo Livas, also MBA ’03, both hail from Monterrey, Mexico, but they didn’t meet until they were at Stanford GSB. After graduation, they ended up in Los Angeles, where they decided to open their first La Monarca Bakery in 2006. “We saw that the [bakery] tradition was there amongst the Latino communities, but there wasn’t necessarily a place that reflected exactly what it was like to be home,” Livas recalls. “That was the beginning of this idea.”

Today, they have 12 stores in working-class Hispanic neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles County. In describing the chain and its products, Cervantes says it’s “as if a Mexican bakery and Starbucks had a baby.”

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Nobody goes angry into a bakery.
Attribution
Ricardo Cervantes, MBA ’03

“When we first opened, we learned a lot by just being at the first location pretty much all the time,” says Livas. “We actually would sleep there. If you’re thinking of doing your own business, there’s never going to be a better time than right after you graduate. The opportunity cost of just deciding to go for it is the lowest it’s ever going to be.”

The COVID-19 pandemic initially hit their business hard, with revenue plummeting 40% in March. But they made adjustments and added new products, such as essential household items for their working-class clientele, and sales have rebounded. “Our team rose to the challenge,” says Cervantes.

— Steve Goldbloom & Steve Hawk

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