Nine family members work between Viera’s two bakeries
Eulogio Zarate considers himself a fan of weather reports.
The manager of Viera’s Bakery said he can tell when business is good based on the weather.
“We always get excited as a business when it’s raining or cold,” he said while standing behind the counter at his Lewis Street shop in Pasco. “People want to stay indoors. So they’ll come by here and grab something. Those are good days for us. So yes, we do look at the weather report. So every morning when we’re going to see it rain, we’ll be successful.”
But rain or shine, Viera’s Bakery has always been successful.
It has been named the Tri-Cities’ top bakery the past five years running, according to a Tri-City Herald readers’ poll.
Zarate said the bakery is popular because customers love their baked goods and sweets.
“The customers are always in here, all hours of the day,” he said. “Everybody is waiting for the hot bread. They’ll wait 20 minutes for it if we’re making more.”
But it’s more than bread.
Walk into the bakery and customers can find hundreds of products at the popular family-owned business.
“We have never sat down and counted the total number of products, because we’re always changing,” Zarate said. “If our bakers want to try something new, like something they remember having when they were young, they can do it. In baking, that’s what it’s about: creativity.”
Zarate is married to Marisa Viera, the daughter of Manuel Viera – the man who started the company.
“My father-in-law was working at another bakery around here,” Zarate said. “He’d always wanted to run his own bakery. The opportunity came up. He purchased all of the equipment, then put it in storage until he could find the right place.”
In 2009, the Viera family opened a second store in Pasco at 6411 Burden Blvd. near Gesa Stadium.
“(The second store is) getting to where we want it to be,” Zarate said. “It has its own clientele.”
For a bakery, Viera’s never seems to be closed for long. The Lewis Street store is open from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. The Burden Boulevard store is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
“Any time between 4 and 7 p.m., there will be a lot of people in here,” Zarate said.
Business has been so successful, there is talk of another store.
“A brother, Mario (Viera), is toying with the idea of starting another store — this one in downtown Yakima,” Zarate said.
That’s the other thing about Viera’s: it’s a family business.
Zarate said that he and his wife were thinking about moving to Virginia in 2004 to take a job offer when Manuel Viera asked them to stay because he was almost ready to open the bakery.
Zarate said they went to Virginia to look at the job possibility and the area, but opted to stay in the Tri-Cities and work in the family business.
Currently, nine family members – brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces – work in the business.
All told, Viera’s employs 30 people.
And they make a good product.
Zarate says there is no one popular item.
“People come in for an assortment of everything,” he said. “But if we’re known for one thing, it’s our doughnuts. We’re known for having the biggest-sized doughnuts around.”
Viera’s also makes cakes.
“On any given weekend in summer, we’ll make close to 100 cakes,” Zarate said. “Our cake season slows down in late September or October until March. But then bread picks up during that period.”
Viera’s reputation extends outside the Tri-Cities.
“We’ve had people come down from the Yakima Valley and from Walla Walla to buy our stuff,” Zarate said. “A guy drove down from Spokane, just for this. Other people drive in and buy things in bulk, then take them home and freeze them.”
And then there was the woman who bought a massive number of empanadas from them.
“She was going to ship them via UPS to her son in Alaska the next day,” he said.
Working in a small family business isn’t easy.
For Zarate, it means getting to the store between 3:30 and 4 a.m. every morning and starting to bake. Maybe he’ll leave around 3 p.m.
But he and Marisa will still be answering phone calls and taking orders from home. Even when they go on vacation, they’re never far from their laptops, thinking about work.
Then there’s trying to keep yourself from enjoying your product too much.
Zarate says when he first started there, he weighed 185 pounds.
“But I got up to 290 pounds,” he said. “I had to limit my eating and started exercising.”
Now, he limits himself to just a few pastries a week. His employees know they must keep an eye on him if he tries to eat more.
It’s one of the dangers of working in a place full of wonderful smells and great tastes.
But there are many more rewards for what the Viera family does.
“It’s just wonderful knowing that the people are going to enjoy what you make,” Zarate said.