Anyone new to Gilroy must be mystified when they pass the intersection of Monterey Street and Leavesley Road and get a whiff of the heavenly smell of bread baking in a building that says Premier Auto Body.
No paint smells that good.
Those who have been around a while have probably figured out that sandwiched in a huge building with the outdated sign is the California Lavash bakery, a company that has been making Middle Eastern style flatbread for 25 years, 12 of them at that location.
A family-owned business, the company holds its financials as close to the vest as they do their location. But, says Lilea Eshoo, daughter and marketing director, the company employs 75 people and turns out thousands of sheets of flat bread each day. Big customers are Whole Foods, Nob Hill, Safeway, New Leaf, Molly Stone and Shopper’s Corner.
They bake eight types of flatbread: lavash, Indian naan, Afghani naan (also called noor), sangak, oval hand-stretched lavash, pita, pizza shells, and foldover flatbreads. And the big news is that they just worked a deal with Christopher Ranch to produce garlic Naan, which is selling off the shelves. In a few short months, it’s already catching up to the sales of traditional naan.
“We figured if Gilroy is known for garlic and we are making naan, we might as well combine the two things, and who better than Christopher Ranch?” said Eshoo, 27. “I didn’t realize how popular it is. Now I’m realizing how many garlic lovers there are out there.”
Her parents Rene and Rosette Eshoo started the company 25 years ago in a San Jose garage. Two years later, they moved the business to Morgan Hill, but when they ran out of space there, they moved to Gilroy.
Christian immigrants from Iran, who escaped the Islamic government takeover, her father, Rene, grew up around his family’s paper converting factory where they turned pulp into flat paper, a technology that worked the same for his favorite breads.
“We call them ‘Daddy’ bread,” said Eshoo.
He worked by day as a flight instructor and the couple would spend entire nights baking. They would deliver the bread around the county and use the money they earned to buy more flour and do it again.
The business took off and became a full-time job that now includes their three grown children.
They haven’t put a name on the building, Eshoo said, because they are afraid people would want to come in and buy their products, which are only available at stores. They’d like to have a retail shop there, but don’t have enough space.