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HOW I MADE IT: CHARLES FEDER

His bakery makes cupcakes by the thousands

Rossmoor Pastries in Signal Hill provides baked goods to Disneyland, Staples Center and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and made a 5-foot birthday cake for Miley Cyrus.

November 29, 2009|By Jerry Hirsch
  • Charles Feder bought a small failed bakery and turned it into a $7-million commercial business with 80 employees and a fleet of natural gas vehicles.
Charles Feder bought a small failed bakery and turned it into a $7-million… (Christine Cotter / Los Angeles…)

The gig: Owner of Rossmoor Pastries, one of the region's largest independent commercial bakeries. It supplies pastries, cakes and other baked goods to large clients, including Disneyland, Staples Center, Angel Stadium, Universal Studios and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Some big projects: Created a gingerbread version of Staples Center that was rolled out to center court during halftime of a Los Angeles Lakers game. Baked a 5-foot-tall birthday cake for pop star Miley Cyrus. Made 100,000 cupcakes for Disneyland's 50th anniversary in 2005. Donated 20,000 cupcakes to the Long Beach Marathon last month.

The beginning: Charles Feder, 73, was born in Jersey City, N.J. He studied psychology at the University of Vermont but didn't graduate -- a result, he says, of his interest in the nearby ski slopes. He also spent two years in the U.S. Air Force.

The journey: Feder worked at Tad's Steaks in New York from 1958 to 1960 at the beginning of the quick-serve food craze.

"You could get a cafeteria-style steak dinner for $1.09. At first I was just counter help, and then I worked up to manager," he said.

Later, he developed a hamburger manufacturing business called Squire Meat Packing. "We had McDonald's and other fast-food chains as clients."

He sold his stake in Squire in 1972, after 10 years, and worked in a variety of food distribution company jobs before retiring at age 48.

Feder was lured back into the food business by Werner Simon, a friend who was importing bread mixes from Germany. He moved to Southern California in 1985 to become the company's representative, selling to independent bakeries and supermarket bakeries in the state.

The bakery: In 1988 Feder learned that a small retail bakery in Orange County's Rossmoor community near Seal Beach had recently closed and was for sale.

Feder bought the business with his partner and longtime companion Janice Ahlgren, thinking there was enough kitchen space to launch a commercial bakery.

The company moved to a larger, industrial facility in Signal Hill in 2001. It now has about $7 million in annual sales and 80 employees.

So many cupcakes: "We have a machine that deposits the batter into the pans, and we can put 960 cupcakes in the oven at the time. Then you ice and box them," Feder said.

So many wedding cakes: The bakery has a wedding cake studio and sells more than 3,500 wedding cakes annually.

The holiday: Thanksgiving is a big time for the bakery's dinner rolls and pies. Feder expected to sell about 2,000 pumpkin pies last week.

Hobbies: Feder likes to spend his free time bicycling on Pacific Coast Highway and visiting his grandchildren.

Green: Feder said he's proud of the way he has shifted his delivery and sales operations to vehicles powered by natural gas. Over the last three years, he has built up a natural gas fleet of 11 delivery vans and two cars. Feder also has an on-site natural gas filling station for the fleet.

He figures the switch away from gasoline saves him more than $1,000 a week, but the money isn't his only motivation.

"We have to be stewards of our environment," Feder said. "I bought one natural gas vehicle just as a test, and it really opened my eyes to both the economy and the ecology of it. We have 200 years of natural gas fuel under the ground here in the United States and we don't use it. That's wrong."

jerry.hirsch@latimes.com

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