After 15 years on Scott Street in Bend, the owners of The Sparrow Bakery will be shuttering its doors and focusing on its production facility and NorthWest Crossing cafe.
The closing came down to an issue of staffing, said co-owner Whitney Keatman, who owns the business with Jess Keatman.
At the start of summer, Sparrow Bakery had a full complement of staff, Whitney Keatman said. Most were college or high school students who left because of school. Now there are just six workers that remain at the location that needs more than 20 people to be fully staffed, Keatman said.
“It’s bittersweet for us, but for our family we’ve just made so many sacrifices in the past 15 years,” Keatman said. “The gains we’ll make as a family will outweigh the feeling of leaving. It is sad, but the stress of operating from that location has tipped the balance between the joy and innovation over the practicality.”
The last day for the bakery to be open at the historic Scott Street location is Monday. The location shares a courtyard with The Workhouse, a cooperative for about 80 artists who work in the studio.
Sparrow’s lack of workers is nothing new for Central Oregon, which has been facing a labor shortage in fields ranging from nursing to housekeeping. In July there were 4,754 unemployed workers in Deschutes County, considerably more than July 2019, before the pandemic, said Damon Runberg, Oregon Employment Department regional economist.
It’s a question of supply and demand. This July there were around 4,480 unique job ads in Deschutes County, more then double the number of job ads posted in the same time in 2019, Runberg said.
The low availability of workers is compounded by the high housing costs, said Runberg.
“The good news is that the higher wages being offered have lured many young workers into the labor market, reversing a decade-long trend of youth labor-force participation declining.”
“It’s so heartbreaking to see another long-time Bend business close a location due to difficulty finding workers,” Runberg said. “Sparrow is not the first, nor will it be the last, to close due these labor constraints.”
When Sparrow leaves the square building that in the 1920s was the payroll office for Mid-Oregon Ironworks, it will have a big affect on the other businesses left behind, said Cari Brown, The Workhouse gallery owner.
“The announcement sent shockwaves through the whole property,” Brown said. “Sparrow is an anchor for all of us. Their notoriety brings a lot of foot traffic and exposure to newcomers and tourists.”
Brown hopes that the property owners will consider the mix of tenants at the site, which has a fly shop, artists and a solar company. And she hopes that residents will step up and visit The Workhouse after Sparrow leaves.
“We’re open seven days a week from 9 to 5, more hours than Sparrow can open, and still we rely heavily on them,” Brown said. “We’re very invested in what happens in that space and what kind of business goes in there.
“We’re a whole ecosystem here.”
Scott Street was the bakery’s first location. The NorthWest Crossing location opened in 2014, and the Keatmans now have a production facility on Lolo Drive.