The owners of Vinny’s Bakery and Café know it’s not possible to forget what happened outside their Pasco restaurant earlier this year.
A small makeshift memorial for Antonio Zambrano-Montes, who was shot and killed by Pasco police in February, still sits on the eastern corner in the front of the business at 1107 W. Lewis St.
Chalk drawings depicting the Mexican national and calls to action in the wake of his controversial death cover the nearby sidewalk.
Few if any customers visited the bakery in the weeks after the shooting, the owners said. It became a gathering place for Zambrano-Montes’ family, the media and city officials, but few bought any pastries or sandwiches. Other people, worried about the safety of the bakery’s neighborhood, stopped coming in.
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It closed its doors for several days and there were doubts it would ever reopen. The owners say they lost thousands of dollars.
But conditions have improved in recent months, they say.
“More people are coming in, new people are coming in,” said Charlie Marín, who co-owns the store with his father, Vinicio Marín Gomez. “It’s getting better.”
But Marín, along with city officials and local activists, said there’s still a need to move past the shooting.
They hope a remodeling project, including a new front façade, will help people realize downtown Pasco is still a good place to visit, enjoy a meal and do business.
“We need to help businesses, we need to help people,” said Felix Vargas, chairman of Hispanic community group Consejo Latino.
Marín and his father have big plans for their first business, including more tables, an espresso bar and an expansion of their custom baking services, he said.
But a new face for the business is the priority. They plan to improve signage that points to parking available on the side of the bakery and strip off the red painted stucco.
“We’re trying to go with the old-school brick look, like the rest of downtown,” Marín said.
The owners teamed up with Vargas, who has led other community efforts connected to the shooting. He reached out to others to help the business remake itself, including bringing in a group of Columbia Basin College design students to offer up potential remodeling ideas, introducing the bakery’s owners to local contractor Elite Construction and connecting them with the city’s façade improvement program.
“It’s a good exercise to bring together the city and others,” Vargas said. “I’m pretty optimistic a game plan will be developed.”
The façade improvement program has already used its grant money for the year, said Michael Goins, executive director of the Downtown Pasco Development Authority. However, he has provided application information to the bakery if the owners decide to wait until next year to pursue the project.
“I think it’s a huge step forward,” Goins said. “Our community has done so well in bouncing back in the face of adversity.”
Marín plans to try and have the façade work completed before the winter, though a timeline and cost estimates are still being developed, he said. And Zambrano-Montes’ memory will be part of the remodel, with a plaque of some sort planned to mark the site of his death.
Even after the shooting nearly shuttered the business, the father-son duo never wanted to move, saying they like their neighborhood and they’re glad to remain in Pasco.
“I really like the community here,” said Marín, who moved up from the Los Angeles area to work with his father. “Big cities, you’re more on your own.”