Fresno favorite Charlotte’s BakerEatery is closing

Charlotte’s BakerEatery, the bustling bakery and sandwich shop in the Tower District, is closing April 24.

Food truck and restaurant Dusty Buns plans to take over the space.

Charlotte’s isn’t closing because of a lack of business.

“It’s actually a good thing for us,” owner Susan Rocha said. “We’re semi-retiring. We just can’t do it anymore.”

Rocha, 64, and her husband John have worked baker’s hours for 10 years. They get up at 1 a.m. to start baking and usually work 12 hours a day.

Her husband works seven days a week because the sourdough bread recipe is an old-fashioned process involving a starter that needs lots of attention.

“He has to come in every day because the bread is a 24-hour process,” she said. “He doesn’t get any days off at all. It’s just too much.”

The bakery and restaurant started 10 years ago this month on Wishon Avenue in the Tower District before moving to its current location at 609 E. Olive Ave. five years ago. It’s named after Rocha’s mother, who died as the couple was opening the business. The restaurant bakes cakes and cupcakes, but is also known for its gluten-free cookies, vegan soups and sandwiches piled high with vegetables and meat.

Charlotte’s recently began selling its gluten-free treats — scones, sweet breads and other items — on Saturday mornings at the Vineyard Farmers Market at Blackstone and Shaw avenues. The Rochas will continue to sell there (but not this Saturday because of the Easter holiday) and will eventually start selling at the market on Wednesdays, too.

The decision to close has been difficult, Rocha said.

“I got really emotional and I feel like we’re abandoning our children,” she said of their customers.

Her son Josh is a partner in the business but doesn’t want to work baker’s hours, either, she said. Rocha and her husband hope to get time to visit their other son who they rarely get to see, in San Francisco. They hope to become grandparents soon and want time to spend with grandbabies, she said.

Rocha says she hopes her customers will support Dusty Buns if the transition goes as planned. There’s still a lot of hoops to jump through, but if all goes well, Dusty Buns will take over the space as a Dusty Buns restaurant, says Dustin Stewart, who owns the business with his wife Kristin.

The Stewarts once joked about taking over the space with the Rochas, but that joked turned serious in recent years. Stewart said he’s long admired the Rochas and their food and hinted that some favorite menu items might find new life at the new place.

In addition to its food trucks, Dusty Buns has a brick-and-mortar restaurant at Echo and Weldon avenues near Fresno High. Taking over Charlotte’s would essentially be a move, but Stewart vows not to leave a hole in the Fresno High neighborhood.

They may open a La Bodega Bella there, which is the name of Dusty Buns’ Mexican-influenced concept they serve food under at occasional events.

Or, it may become another family restaurant.

“I just want to keep something going in there,” he says. “We want to make a lasting thing.”