In the summer of 2020, Melanie Penney was walking through Fremont, her neighborhood of 10 years, when she saw something unusual printed on a flier. It was Xoloitzcuintle, the national dog of Mexico, advertising a new mutual aid organization, La Casa del Xoloitzcuintle, and a vegan bakery, Lazy Cow. She took note. More than a year later, in October 2021, Lazy Cow opened on Fremont Avenue, and on its front door was a phone number, which Penney presumed was for a delivery person. But she texted the number and Lara de la Rosa, the owner of Lazy Cow Bakery and La Casa del Xoloitzcuintle, quickly responded. For Penney, it felt like kismet.
“She told me all about the concept and what she’s trying to build,” Penney, who is Puerto Rican, says. “I was blown away. Ever since then I’ve been showing up to do a little painting, scrubbing the floor, doing some bakery shifts. When I saw that it was all about Latinx community, I really felt like, wow, that’s something I’m missing.”
After almost two years of planning, Lazy Cow Bakery has finally opened its doors, with an official launch party coming this month or early next. Part vegan bakery (read the rotating menu here), part food pantry, and part community space, the space rooted in ideas of liberation — for animals and people alike. Currently, customers can grab a Stamp Act coffee to accompany a slice of cake, a nopal cheese quiche, or a lemon squeeze tart; there are donated canned goods and produce in Casa del Xoloitzcuintle’s food pantry, though eventually de la Rosa hopes to provide hot meals, too.
De la Rosa is a self-taught baker and started Lazy Cow in her basement in the summer of 2020. She’s also a biochemist who was working at a lab until August 2021. She says the connection between biochemistry and baking is simple: baking isn’t simply related to science, it is science. “It’s very similar to the lab, as far as running experiments,” she says. “The difference is the volume and speed. So in the lab, you’ll be given a task and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, well, can you get it to me by the end of the year?’ But here, it’s like, ‘We have to have this out in 15 minutes.’”
Lazy Cow currently specializes in cakes and other pastries, but de la Rosa has plans to add a brunch service and host events — think movie nights, Spanish language learning groups, and parties involving a disco ball. It’s all in service of a vision that goes far beyond any single slice of cake. Eventually, she hopes to bring on more co-owners, provide health insurance for her employees, and make decisions with consensus voting, a system where she says everyone’s opinion is taken into account.
“It’s a more tedious way to organize your organization. And it’s more time-consuming, more emotional effort,” de la Rosa says. But it’s in service of a greater good, a different kind of goal. It’s less transactional.”
The opening of Lazy Cow Bakery (and, by extension, La Casa del Xolo) was postponed many times due to delays in the kitchen renovation and getting necessary licenses — de la Rosa first signed the lease in May 2021. But she was not deterred. If anything, de la Rosa says she’s used to suboptimal situations and is always ready to make the best of them. Penney, meanwhile, is just as happy to play a part in Lazy Cow’s mission — and its dance parties.
“I really want to learn more and engage in some mutual aid,” she says. “I want to meet more Latinx community members and hear their ideas. The first bakery shift I did, [de la Rosa] had set up some speakers and had music playing and we actually sold out for the first time. It’s a place I want to be.”