How El Coqui Bakery and Restaurant in Kensington stayed singing during COVID-19
Yasmin Auli first started selling baked goods out of her house and opened her first bakery in 2005.
When Yasmin Auli started baking in her small kitchen in Kensington, she never thought her customers would demand other delicious treats she used to eat when she was a kid in Carolina, Puerto Rico.
Little by little Auli saved every penny she earned, and opened a quaint little spot in 2005.
It was then she met her business partner, Cesar Gomez, who wanted to help her expand her ideas as well as bring in some new customers.
With Gomez’s marketing and the recommendations of her loyal customers, her baked goods gained in popularity throughout the neighborhood and then city
Auli’s business soon outgrew her first spot and needed to relocate to an even bigger establishment, which is now El Coqui Restaurant, located in the Harrowgate Plaza Shopping Center.
“I couldn’t believe that my customers helped me create this restaurant, their request for Puerto Rican treats like quesitos, and bizcocho mojadito cake, and pan de agua, are the reasons why my customers kept coming back,” Auli said.
After she noticed her business was booming, she decided to make a more savory menu, in addition her authentic traditional baked goods.
“I decided that I wanted to offer them different snacks and entrees that were exclusively Puerto Rican, for the older generations, I wanted to make them feel like they were back in Puerto Rico, by just eating our food,” she said.
With a new menu, came a restaurant addition to her panaderia, that way, customers would have the choice of grabbing an entree, and some mouthwatering desserts.
Business was booming, but like everything else during the COVID-19 pandemic, it took a massive hit.
According to Auli, the business lost almost 80% of its revenue.
“I did get approved for the first round of PPP loans, but it wasn’t enough,” she explained.
On top of losing most of their revenue, Auli and Gomez also lost some full-time employees.
“Around 20% of our full-time staff didn’t come back on their own, and then around 10% of our staff didn’t feel comfortable going to work during the pandemic because they were older and had underlying health issues, which is understandable,” she said.
Another hit was absorbed when the pandemic hit was to their catering business. With most in-person events canceled by the government, no one needed the service.
“We used to get booked for quinceañeras, baby showers, and weddings, now that is not possible,” Auli said.
The mayor allowed restaurants to welcome indoor diners on Jan. 16, but that doesn’t mean all restaurants are going to actually open.
“We are not sure if we will open indoors or not. We might open indoors, but probably not on the 16,” she said.
Until then, El Coqui will be offering take orders through GrubHub, DoorDash, UberEats, and even on their own facebook page for take-out.
Be sure to check out their menu so you can bite into a little piece of Puerto Rico!