Michael Brandy, Deseret News
James Delamare bakes bread at the Avenues Bakery on South Temple.

If you think food prices are denting your wallet, get this: They're threatening the popular Avenues Bakery in Salt Lake City, a favorite of the neighborhood and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and his family.

The South Temple bakery, a few doors down from the Governor's Mansion and frequented by city officials, politicians and neighbors alike, has notified customers it won't do business at its current location after July 20.

Owners Kathie Chadbourne and Paul Maurer were looking to move the business to another downtown location, but they say they are running into zoning issues.

The 5-year-old business is coping with skyrocketing wheat and egg prices, and it no longer can afford rent that the owners say was exorbitant to begin with — nearly $11,000 a month.

"This is the full picture of what food prices have done," Chadbourne said.

The situation has apparently shocked several customers, and some are even calling the landlord, the couple said. One of those callers will be Salt Lake economic development director Bob Farrington.

Farrington hopes to help keep the business there. He wants to bring about a resolution between the bakery and landlord, he told the Deseret News last week. If he can't, he hopes to look at zoning issues affecting the move.

"I think there's been a good popular response to their predicament," Farrington said, adding that a survey showed residents most cherish locally owned businesses, of which the bakery is "a poster child."

"Everyone's kind of working every angle to help them out," he said

The landlord did not return a message seeking comment.

The rally of support energizes the owners.

"The community is coming together on our behalf," beamed Chadbourne. "It is so beautiful, because it is about community."

The Deseret News has been tracking local food prices once a month since April. The select grocery basket includes eggs and milk, diapers, bananas, a gallon of gas, even take-out pizza and the price of pair of jeans.

Last month, food prices mostly decreased in our basket — and tiny as it may be, the trend was reflected in the Wasatch Front consumer price index put out by Wells Fargo. The overall cost of goods we've been tracking went up about 1.5 percent between May and June. This month, thanks to a clearance sale on jeans and what's looking like a perpetual Oreo cookie sale, the price of our basket of goods dropped 3.2 percent for people without a loyalty card at Smith's Marketplace, and even more — 5 percent — for those with one.

Some foods went up. Milk jumped 4 percent for the month to hit the baseline price of $2.69 a gallon recorded in April. Eggs went up 30 percent in the past month to $1.63 a dozen, but they are 15 percent cheaper than they were in April. Cheerios are up 4.5 percent, and bananas jumped 6 percent for the month and since April.

Gas prices had the biggest increase — up 4 percent for the month to $4.02 a gallon. That's a 25.6 percent increase since April, when a gallon of gas cost $3.20. The prices are affecting Utahns, who are coming in droves to participate in Crossroads Urban Center's Community Food Co-op of Utah. The co-op buys food collectively at wholesale prices, providing an array of healthful food for about half the price.

The co-op now counts close to 6,000 members, up by 1,000 since late April, assistant director Bill Germundson said. The co-op has added four new distribution teams in communities from Kearns to Ogden in the past month.

"Word is getting out," Germundson said. "Gas prices are hitting home to people. That affects the food prices. We're at the right time and the right place for growth."

Anyone can join the co-op. They're just asked to perform two hours of community service each month for participating.

But now, they're going to start paying more, beginning this month, for their standard share. In July, a standard share — chicken drumsticks, salmon fillets, boneless beef ribs, ground beef, rice, whole wheat bread, three varieties of fruit and five vegetables — will cost $23. That's about half what it would cost in the grocery store. But it's $2 more than it cost a month ago.

The price of the half-share remains $14.

"Food prices are going up," Germundson said. "In order to keep offering a good variety and quantities, we had to raise (our price)."

Avenues Bakery owners can relate to that. A little more than a year ago, Chadbourne said she would pay $12.67 for 50 pounds of organic whole wheat flour. The price has almost tripled to $32.16. At the same time, regular white flour has gone from about $9 to $19, Maurer said. And that's even buying from a Tremonton supplier, helping to cut down on sky-high fuel costs, which still result in a $7.50 delivery surcharge.

Free-range eggs have gone from $39 a case to $59 a case in about seven months, Chadbourne said.

The bakery couldn't triple its bread prices, or no one would buy it, the owners said. But they did raise prices 20-25 percent, and sales have dipped, Maurer said. Overall, the number of customers remains high, but the bakery's profit margins are much lower than the owners would like. Maurer and Chadbourne remain hopeful their business can remain intact, perhaps by renegotiating their rent.

"We hope we can work out something," Chadbourne said.


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com