Artwork Raises Hopes for Community, Business

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By Michael J. ARVIZU

With the afternoon sun beating down on her face, muralist Linda Stewart added the finishing touches to her latest piece on Monday – a mural painted on one side of the plywood-covered façade of the fire-damaged Backdoor Bakery and Café in Sunland.

Her mural is part of an effort by local artists to add some color to the blackened and charred remains of the bakery and café, heavily damaged in an early morning fire on May 11, which was also Mother’s Day.

“Look at this. It’s depressing,” Stewart said, pointing to the restaurant’s now ashen roof. “I live here. I have to look at this. People come into town and the first thing they see is this burnt [building].”

Stewart’s mural depicts a sun rising over the San Gabriel Mountains. The words “Sunland-Tujunga” are painted in an arc at the top of the mural. A bright blue stream runs through the mountains from right to left. Puffy white clouds traverse the landscape.

The loss of the popular restaurant and café at the intersection of Foothill and Sunland boulevards left residents in shock, but the community quickly rallied around Deborah Rosen Goodale and her husband Reno Goodale, the owners of the Backdoor Bakery and Café.

“I’m less shocked,” Deborah said on Monday. “I am now just moving forward with trying to figure out what my insurance company needs and all that stuff. We have to draw plans, something that we both like.”

Sunland resident Allan Reyes coordinated the mural project. Reyes is a workshop facilitator at Chilao Mountain School, an educational camp in the Angeles National Forest. As a longtime Backdoor Bakery and Café patron, Reyes felt the mural painting effort is a way to give back to the community.

Reyes’ mural depicts a serene forest setting with grass, trees and a yucca plant, which are plentiful in the area this time of year.

“I’m trying to bring the forest out, and also people into the forest,” Reyes said of his work.

He noted that the plywood covering the burned out shell of the bakery has also become a target for vandalism as of late.

“This place was getting hit constantly by graffiti and taggers,” Reyes said.  “Once we put a mural on, we were hoping that would deter them a little bit.”

To avoid the intense heat of the day, Reyes and the other artists have done most of their work at night. Prior to starting work on the façade, Reyes received approval from the restaurant owners, the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council, and the Los Angeles Police Dept. – Foothill Division, which patrols the area.

“You have to understand, and take to heart, why we’re doing this, who we’re doing it for, and who owns this business,” Stewart said of the project. “You have to think of how they’re going to feel afterwards.”

Community reaction to the project has been positive Reyes said, with some community members donating paint and supplies to support the effort.

“We have a good stock here to go on,” Reyes said, paint still on his hands.

The community’s support of the project, he added, speaks volumes of the close-knit communities he and his and fellow artists reside in.

“They really love their city, they want to do something, they want to improve it, they want to get something going,” Reyes said. “You see a lot gentrification in other parts of L.A. – Echo Park [and] downtown especially. Sunland and Tujunga want a little bit of that for themselves. We’re going out and doing it for ourselves. We’re going out and getting some grassroots efforts together.”

Councilman Fuentes: ‘I Want Them to Open and Get Back into the Swing of Things’

By Michael J. ARVIZU

Los Angeles City Councilman Felipe Fuentes toured the charred remains from outside of the Backdoor Bakery and Café on Monday afternoon. The restaurant was heavily damaged in an early morning fire on May 11.

The councilman met with Backdoor Bakery and Café owners Deborah Rosen Goodale and her husband Reno Goodale (above) to speak with them about any needs they might have as they strive to rebuild the popular eatery.

“I’m lucky being in the public eye still. I’m not forgotten!” Deborah said, laughing, of Fuentes’ visit. “It’s exciting. It’s a thrill.”

Fuentes said the Backdoor Bakery and Café was one of his favorite restaurants, a statement Deborah can attest to, she said.

“I want them to open and get back into the swing of things, so that we can all enjoy what is a tremendous business in the district,” Fuentes said. Fuentes represents District 7 – Sunland and Tujunga lie in this district – on the Los Angeles City Council.

Fuentes felt the restaurant was more than a bakery and one of the things that “we need to highlight, these great small businesses that are doing so much for the community.”

Fuentes, accompanied by a film crew, also shot material for his website and social media pages. The material produced will go toward highlighting what community is and the importance of small businesses to those communities, using the Backdoor Bakery and Café as an example, said Fuentes’ communications director Cheryl Getuiza.

“The building burned down, and yet the community came together and is really supporting the owners because the owners have done so much for the community,” Getuiza said.

The Goodales were interviewed for the video, and the new artwork painted on the plywood covering the ashen façade of the restaurant was featured as well.

Fuentes, dressed casually in a dress shirt and slacks, took the opportunity to view damage to the interior of the restaurant first hand.

“Thank goodness nobody was hurt,” he said after seeing the damage through a small division in a wall. “We’ve got to hurry up and figure out everything that we can to help this business get back into doing what it was doing best: serving people and strengthening our community.”