Gary grew up in China, and moved to New York City with his parents when he was 16. For the fi rst year, Gary went to a bilingual school in Chinatown. The teacher couldn’t remember the Chinese students’ names, so gave them American names. That is how Gary got his name. He dropped out of school after the fi rst year and worked very long hours for his uncle, who had six bakeries in New York City.
Baker Gary Yu came to Portland, from New York City, the day before September 11, 2001. He has a brother who had worked on the 79th floor of one of the towers. When Gary was finally able to get through to his brother’s cell phone, his brother was stuck in traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.
The bakery that Gary worked in was really large, with 60 employees. For the first two years he did nothing but crack and separate eggs. Hundreds and hundreds of eggs, day after day. Gary cracked and separated eggs for 14 hours a day, six or seven days a week. He worked three eggs in each hand. When Gary graduated from eggs, his uncle gave him a choice, did he want to work with cake or with bread? Gary chose cake. The very first day of his new assignment, his first task was to assemble the tools. Gary sliced across the fingers of his right hand, to the bone, when he picked up the first knife. To this day he has quite a scar, and no feeling in one of his fingertips. But he had been assigned cake cutting, and cut cakes he did. All day, day after day, and with his left hand. Gary reports that, to this day he can work as well with his left hand as he can with his right.
Gary has worked in several bakeries since coming to Portland. He had been looking for a location for four years before he found the building that he is remodeling at 8716 SE Division. He picked this spot because it is busy and visible. He likes that the area has a concentration of Asian businesses. His remodel is an ambitious one, and Gary is doing it all with his savings. As with most remodeling projects, there have been some expensive surprises. One unexpected expense was the need to put in all new sidewalks and grass strips along both streets of his corner location. BDS' Small Business Liaison, Suzanne Vara, has been there to help Gary navigate the permit process and realize his small business dream.
He is convinced that his experience in the bakery business, and the innovative ideas he has for bakery products that Portland has never seen, are going to pay off once he opens Gary’s Bakery and Bistro. He has made four trips to China, two trips to Japan, and two trips to Taiwan to learn new ways of baking. Gary’s uncle taught him well, use good quality ingredients and bake fresh every day. Gary knows that most people are trying to eat more healthy. He has learned to bake delicious cakes, cookies and bread with less fat and less sugar. We wish Gary all the greatest success. And, we can hardly wait for the grand opening!
Suzanne, a long-time bureau employee has experience working on thorny commercial projects. If you are thinking about starting a small business or have questions or concerns about an existing project, call Suzanne at 503-823-7542 or e-mail her at BDSsmallbiz@ci.portland.or.us.