Kids goods

Eat, Drink, Savor: Lighthouse 55 Bakery to Close October 22

The Hollister business has been a blend of faith, family and fine baking for eight years.

Lighthouse 55 at Hollister has been a beacon for those looking for unique wedding cakes, birthday cakes, and finely baked baked goods like cookies and desserts. But after eight years, owner Lorie Rios decided to close the bakery on October 22 and move it closer to where she lives in Los Banos, taking her memories with her.

“I loved being a part of my clients’ lives,” Rios, 61, said. “These are all the cakes I’ve done for special occasions. For some of my clients, I’ve done their wedding cake, then a cake for their baby shower, and their child’s first birthday cake. I’ve baked cakes for baptisms and funerals, and it’s an honor to be a part of all of these life events.

It was a tough decision for Rios, but the past few years have been particularly difficult.

“I moved to Los Banos four years ago,” she said, “and I’ve been commuting ever since. But then my husband Samuel had two cardiac arrests and I had to shut things down for a while. Then we had all the issues with COVID. We also had a car crash with a rollover and I was often closed for doctor’s appointments. With all that, it just seemed like time to close. here.

Another problem is that her father, Alex Mendoza, disappeared on July 6. “He was living in a retirement home in Los Angeles,” she said, “and he left there three months ago. They’re still looking for him, and I feel like if I stay near my house, he might show up there.

Rios hopes to find a place to reopen in Los Banos because, she says, baking has been her life, even though she entered the profession by chance when she was 17 and applied for a cashier job at Fry’s grocery store in Milpitas. The only job available was in the bakery, and she took it.

“When I started, I couldn’t tell a raisin from a chocolate chip,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about the bakery business. But we had this frozen product that we were supposed to make, and it wasn’t coming up. And I wanted to know why it wouldn’t and what caused it to rise to begin with.

Before her shifts, she started going to artisan bakeries, where baked goods were prepared from start to finish from basic ingredients.

“I would say, ‘I’m going to take out your trash and work for free, I just want to learn,'” she said. “I ended up getting a job at Dick’s Bakery in San Jose, when all the bakers were men. Before signing up, I had to prove that I could carry 50-pound sacks of flour without needing the men to help me.

The training she received at Dick’s Bakery, particularly in the skills needed to make their legendary Burnt Almond Cake, earned her jobs at other renowned bakeries like Greenlee’s and Consentino’s. Wanting to learn more, she attended the Campbell French Culinary Institute and studied with famed cake designer Toba Garrett for two years in Las Vegas.

Coming to Hollister, she worked at the SaveMart bakery (now Lucky’s) and had a steady following through her church, which she cultivated by baking for their events. With so many special requests to fulfill, including her burnt almond cake, she decided it was time to open her own business.

Her faith inspired the bakery’s name, saying she wanted to be a “beacon for the community.” The “55” comes from her husband’s birth year, 1955, with a nod to her father’s favorite number, five. She found a spot across from the San Benito County Courthouse at 396 Fourth Street and brought her children to help her.

“I have four children and they have all worked here with me,” she said. “We sometimes had grandchildren in a playpen right next to the checkout. We ran it as a family, then the next generation came along, and now my grandkids help out from time to time.

One of her daughters, Michelle Leonard, now CEO of the San Benito Chamber of Commerce, said she thought it was a good time for her mother to make a change, but would treasure her memories.

“As someone who loved what they made,” she said, “I’m disappointed to say goodbye to the showcase. It was so special to be able to work there, raise my children and spending time together. And I have made many valuable connections and relationships during my time at the bakery. As CEO of the Chamber, seeing a business close is heartbreaking, but I know the community has benefited from your generosity and kindness.

When asked what makes a good baker, Rios said she tells people that the secret ingredient in baking is love.

“I’ve thought about closing before,” she said, “but every time a customer came to tell me how much they appreciated my presence here. The community would come here and see each other here. And they told me have always been supportive when I needed it. When my husband got his heart, someone started a GoFundMe for the bakery, and everyone pitched in. I appreciate their love, and everyone I will miss you terribly.

Lighthouse Baked Goods 55

Lemon biscuits – These bite-sized shortbread cups containing a generous dollop of bright yellow lemon curd are my favorite item in the shop. The flavor of the curd is crisp and clean, neither too sour nor too sweet. The cups are very thin – just a shell – but crispy and buttery. These are must-haves and I highly recommend checking them out before she closes the bakery. I will miss these.

Carrot cupcakes – “Everyone loves cream cheese frosting,” Rios said, “and the frosting really makes the cupcake.” Although the cream cheese is pretty amazing – you just want to lick it all off – I have to disagree with her and say these cupcakes would be awesome even without the frosting. There are no nuts in these cupcakes, making them safe for allergy sufferers. Similar to a spice cake, with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, the grated carrot keeps it moist and chewy.

Fingerprint cookies “I love these shortbread cookies,” she said. “I got the recipe 20 years ago from an old German baker, and it’s a no-fail recipe.” This classic cookie is made with homemade lemon curd or raspberry jam. The cookie itself is made with cake flour rather than all-purpose flour, which makes them crumbly and nicely textured with a subtle sweetness. There’s an old-world goodness to the flavor, and you can taste the quality of every ingredient.

Apple pie – Made in puff pastry with slices of Granny Smith apples, topped with crystal sugar. “The secret to puff pastry is strong arms,” Rios said. “There’s a lot of muscle and my big rolling pin, which has been with me for 30 years.” There’s a rustic, homemade feel to these pies, with the different thicknesses of the dough giving it different levels of crispness and chewiness. The same goes for her turnovers, where the pastry is not just a container for the fruit but a treat in itself.

(Lorie Rios asks anyone who may have information about her missing father to call the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department at 323-890-5500.)

BenitoLink thanks our subscribers, Hollister Super and Windmill Market for helping to develop the Eat, Drink, Savor series and giving our readers the stories that matter to them. Hollister Super (two stores in Hollister) and Windmill Market (in San Juan Bautista) support stories about the inspired and creative people behind the many delicious food and beverage products made in San Benito County. All editorial decisions are made by BenitoLink.