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Updated: 7 hours 10 min ago

Blaze Pizza Adds Top Level Talent to Executive Team

Thu, 2020-05-28 13:39

Blaze Pizza, the Pasadena-based fast-casual pizza concept, has added new team members to its executive line-up, appointing Marie Zhang as Chief Supply Chain Officer, and Ed Yancey as Vice President of Franchise Development. 

“I am thrilled that Marie and Ed have joined the Blaze leadership team,” Mandy Shaw, Blaze Pizza CEO, said in a statement.  “Their individual 25-plus years’ experience building world class organizations with some of the best brands in the business will help propel us into the next phase of growth. Their talents and experience also dovetail perfectly with personal commitments to quality and integrity that are the core values at Blaze.”

Blaze Pizza has two locations in Pasadena, one in the Renaissance Plaza on Fair Oaks Boulevard and a second on Colorado Boulevard.

As Chief Supply Chain Officer, Zhang is leading the enterprise-wide supply chain function including sourcing, distribution, demand planning, manufacturing and quality assurance to support the company’s growth strategies in the U.S. and international markets. 

Her immediate task would be to develop and maintain good relationships and partnerships with suppliers and distributors, ensure acceptable product cost, quality and service, and build the scalable supply chain and quality assurance infrastructure that can take Blaze Pizza to the next level as a global brand.

“I’m thrilled to work alongside such an intelligent and driven team, especially during the nature of our industry today,” Zhang said. “Obviously, the entire modern supply chain has been disrupted, but there’s a tremendous opportunity to evaluate and adapt. I’m looking forward to leading the charge on this with Blaze Pizza in the months and years to come.”

Yancey joins the company with a demonstrated history of working in the restaurant industry. He has grown from an owner/operator to a skilled franchise sales leader and brings a breadth of knowledge and skills to his new job. 

Before joining Blaze Pizza, Yancey earned his development stripes working for notable restaurant brands such as Jersey Mike’s, B. Good and Dunkin’ Brands. As Vice President of Franchise Development, he will focus on expanding Blaze Pizza’s footprint nationwide through multi-unit deals.

“Continuing to connect, on a personal and professional level, with leads is important now more than ever,” Yancey said. “We’re having genuine conversations about their long-term goals as it relates to financial security, and there are promising developments coming down the pipeline. I’m honored to work with a brand that stays true to its authentic roots no matter the circumstance.”

Blaze Pizza continues to serve up fast and affordable artisanal pizzas, all while “Blazin’ It Safe,” the company said. Some of the new safety protocols at their branches include plexiglass partitions, social distancing markers, wellness checks for team members, and bags to safely store masks while diners eat. 

Most locations also have a designated host in the dining area to assist guests throughout their visit.

At Blaze Pizza, guests can customize one of the brand’s chef-driven Signature Pizzas or build their own, choosing from a wide selection of real ingredients. Pizza fans with specific dietary needs can enjoy gluten-free and keto crusts, vegan cheese and plant-based spicy chorizo. Blaze pizzas can be ordered in-restaurant or online for carryout or delivery.

The rapidly growing chain is backed by private equity firm Brentwood Associates and founding investors that include LA Laker LeBron James, Maria Shriver, movie producer John Davis and Boston Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner.

Tuesday Morning Files Chapter 11

Wed, 2020-05-27 16:59

Tuesday Morning, one of the original off-price U.S. retailers specializing in name-brand, high-quality products for the home, has filed for Chapter 11 protection, citing the “immense strain the COVID-19 pandemic and related store closures” have put on the business.

The Dallas, Texas-based company said the bankruptcy declaration will enable a reorganization process that will include closures of 230 of its 687 stores. A list of the stores being closed over the summer includes the Pasadena location at the Hastings Ranch Shopping Center, at 3725 East Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena.

The first phase of the store closing will include at least 132 locations and Tuesday Morning’s distribution center in Phoenix, Arizona that supports these stores. These stores were identified as under-performing or are situated in areas where too many locations are in close proximity, the company said in a statement.

Steve Becker, Tuesday Morning CEO, said the prolonged and unexpected closures of their stores in response to COVID-19 has had severe consequences on the business.

“Prior to the pandemic, we were gaining momentum in our merchant organization, growing our vendor base and improving brands, assortment and value for our customers, while investing in our technology and corporate leadership team,” Becker said. “However, the complete halt of store operations for two months put the Company in a financial position that can be effectively addressed only through a reorganization in Chapter 11.”

The company said it has obtained a commitment from its existing lender group to provide $100 million of debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing. As required by the DIP agreement, Tuesday Morning is required to obtain a commitment for up to $25 million of additional financing, which the company said it is currently negotiating.

Tuesday Morning said it plans to renegotiate a significant number of leases during the process. Of the remaining 555 stores, the company plans to exit about 100 additional locations, leaving a go-forward footprint of about 450 stores.

The company added the realignment will allow it to improve product offering by focusing on the highest performing stores in its most productive markets,and enhance its overall profitability and credit worthiness, with resources directed at its most profitable stores.

“The commitment from our lenders to provide access to significant capital demonstrates faith in our value-driven business model and iconic brand,” Becker said. “Looking ahead, we’ve been encouraged by very positive performance of the business as we continue to re-open our doors and welcome back our dedicated customers.”

Following the closure of the entire store portfolio as a result of COVID-19, Tuesday Morning said it has been able to re-open over 80 percent of its existing store footprint to date and expects to continue store re-openings and bringing associates back to work over the coming weeks.

Green Dot Expands Banking Access to Immigrants

Wed, 2020-05-27 13:45

Pasadena-based financial company Green Dot Corporation has launched a partnership with Remitly, an independent digital remittance company, to launch Cash Deposit, a new feature for Remitly’s Passbook account.

Passbook is a digital bank account for Remitly customers that offers no recurring fees, cash back on international transfers, and a Visa debit card.

Launched earlier this year, Passbook eliminates the barriers and complexity of opening a bank account for the almost 45 million first-generation immigrants who live and work in the U.S., who historically have not had banking products available to them that meet their specific needs. Passbook also offers paycheck deposit and bank-to-bank transfer services.

With Cash Deposit, Passbook customers can now deposit cash to their accounts at nearly 90,000 retail stores across the country, including participating 7-Eleven and Walgreens stores, utilizing the Green Dot Network.

A Remitly statement said the vast majority of these in-network stores are essential businesses that remain open amid the COVID-19 crisis, providing customers access at a time when it’s needed most.

“From day one, our vision at Remitly has centered on providing immigrants with the most trusted financial services products on the planet, designed to meet their unique needs,” Matt Oppenheimer, Remitly Co-founder and CEO, said in a statement. “As those needs change, we are resolute in our commitment to meeting our customers where they are and adapting our products accordingly.”

Oppenheimer said Cash Deposit Is the next step in the expansion of Remitly’s Passbook banking service, addressing a key pain point for our customers: linking cash income to an accessible bank account.

“As we look to the future, we’ll continue to expand Passbook’s offerings to provide our customers with safe, reliable financial services during these challenging times and beyond,”  Oppenheimer continued.

Cash Deposit addresses the barriers that people who commonly hold cash face now, with many banks and other financial institutions having closed their doors or limited operating hours in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The service offers customers a flexible way to deposit, manage and use their funds via a convenient, digital account.

“Green Dot is honored to join forces with Remitly in support of its first-ever Cash Deposit product,” Helena Mao, General Manager of Money Processing at Green Dot, said. “As an innovator in financial services, Remitly, together with the Green Dot Network, is providing more convenient financial access to people who otherwise would not have it.”

To learn more about Passbook and Cash Deposit, visit or

Pasadena Restaurants Teetering in COVID-19 Balance

Mon, 2020-05-25 14:27

Many local restaurants are fighting to stay alive during the Coronavirus pandemic, unsure whether they’ll be able to survive much longer on takeout and delivery orders.

“It’s hard. I did this for the community and we gotta be positive in life,” said Calogero Drago, owner of the fine dining establishment Celestino Ristorante at 141 S. Lake Ave. in Pasadena, who said he had never done “to go” orders prior to the stay-at-home mandate.

It was either adapt or close.

“I didn’t do the three course. I just did a nice, beautiful menu,” Drago told Pasadena Now. “Chicken, fish, pasta, special of the day. You have four different types of pasta, you have two risotto, you have a gluten-free, vegan … everything. So we’ll see. We’ll try this new model, hope it’s going to work.”

“We gotta look forward because it’s sad, the situation right now, in one minute the world had changed,” Drago added.

In late March, Gale Kohl closed Gale’s Restaurant so employees could be with their families.

“During the closure, we cleaned, sanitized and disinfected the entire restaurant. We re-opened the restaurant on April 28,” Kohl told Pasadena Now in an email. “I had to think long and hard as to what was the best thing to do. My employees were all feeling good and wanted to return to work. I looked at everything and knew that unless we re-opened in a timely manner, we would probably not be in a financial position to open our doors again. The costs of just shutting the doors is enormous. Most restaurants could not sustain for very long. At this point, I plan to keep going, support my staff and the community. I have been doing that for almost 19 years and I have no plans of closing my doors.”

Pasadena’s Economic Development and Technology Committee last week directed the City Manager’s office to report back with specific recommendations as to how restaurants and other businesses can reopen to dine-in customers in the coming weeks while maintaining social distancing and other safety and health protocols.

It’s unclear when City Manager Steve Mermell will submit his report to the EDTECH committee but he told members he would try to get them something during as soon as this shortened holiday week.

One of the many options the city is considering is allowing restaurants to set up outdoor dining in parking lots, alleyways, on sidewalks and parklets, the area reserved for street parking that extends 8-feet from the curb.

“We’ll probably have some nice open air tents that we will hang with chandeliers and make it very inviting,” said Gregg Smith, co-owner of Arroyo Chop House at 536 S. Arroyo Pkwy.

“We don’t have the guidelines from the city yet so we don’t really know what the rest of it will look like,” said Smith, who with his brother, Bob, owns three restaurants in Pasadena. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we need to put some plexiglass partitions.”

“I bet you’re going to see 35 to 40 percent of the retailers in Pasadena will not reopen.” Smith added. “And the longer this continues, the more casualties in retail we’re gonna see. And I mean all retail, not just restaurants … the survivors are going to be the ones that make the guests feel secure and healthy and safe.”

“Business owners are tossing out any idea possible that will give them some opportunity to have a decent chance at bringing their businesses back online and surviving,” said Councilman Andy Wilson, an EDTECH committee member. “If restaurants are only allowed to operate at a small percentage of its capacity, can they even afford to reopen?”

“If the public is not confident that they’re going to be safe then the businesses don’t work because they have no customers,” Wilson added. “We need to make sure as we’re opening these, helping these businesses come back online, that we’re doing it in a way that customers can be confident of taking advantage of those businesses and those restaurants and those services, otherwise they’re not going to show up.”

In addition to the cost of implementing new safety and health measures, businesses are facing a minimum wage increase in the city of Pasadena to $15 an hour July 1.

“I would suggest that the city council consider a 12 month pause on raising the minimum wage to allow the businesses to rebuild themselves and to reassure their customers that they are safe, clean, and happy to welcome them back,” former restaurant owner Robin Salzer told Pasadena Now. “Employees are suffering, businesses are suffering, and we as a city are suffering.”

“Everyone’s already struggling and everyone’s already laid off most of their employees,” said Marc Canter, owner of LA’s famous Canter’s Deli, which operates a satellite in Pasadena out of Kitchen United at 55 S. Madison Ave. “So it would just make matters worse right now. I can’t imagine the city would enforce that during this pandemic.”

Hotels Take Steps to Protect Employees, Customers from COVID 19

Mon, 2020-05-25 11:16

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA)  announced that major hotel chains have endorsed “Safe Stay,” AHLA’s enhanced industry-wide cleaning guidelines designed to protect workers and guests at hotels.

“As we reopen hotel doors and welcome back the traveling public, it is critical that the hotel industry across North America unite under one common set of safety, cleanliness and health standards so that our employees and guests can be assured that hotels will be cleaner and safer than ever before,” said Chip Rogers, President and CEO of ALHA. “Along with North America’s top hospitality leaders, we believe this industry-wide effort will ensure greater transparency and confidence throughout the entire hotel experience. Ensuring the safety of our guests and employees is a never-ending challenge, and in the face of the current public health crisis, safety is more paramount than ever.”

Safe Stay calls for hand-washing and hand sanitizer use; dispensers at major employee and guest entrances and contact spots, such as lobby reception and employee entrances.

Signs reminding employees and guests how to wear, handle and throw away masks are required.

Hotel guest elevators, front desk check-in stations and public bathrooms will be cleaned frequently.

Housekeepers may not enter a guest room during a stay unless asked to by guest, or otherwise adhere to established safety protocols.

Guests are required to practicing physical distancing of at least 6 feet from other groups of travelers.

Employees must practice physical distancing in dining rooms, training classrooms and more; front desk agents should use every other workstation. Contactless check-in is encouraged when possible.

The Safe Stay effort was made in conjunction with major hotel chains, including the Wyndham, Hilton, Marriott and Best Western to standardize cleanliness.

Although hotels were deemed essential businesses, many of them closed due to rising costs. Marriot Hotels was losing $1.4 billion a week. The move comes as local hotels begin to reopen for business. The Langham Hotel is scheduled to reopen on June 1.

Locally, the City Council and the EDTECH Committee have discussed an ordinance that would protect hotel workers.

As of April 1 more than seven out of 10 hotel rooms were empty across the country, according to Smith Travel Research (STR), a Hendersonville, Tennessee based company that tracks supply and demand data for multiple market sectors, including the global hotel industry.

STR also said that since the COVID-19 crisis began escalating in mid-February in the U.S., hotels have lost more than $7.5 billion in room revenue.

The numbers are rapidly increasing, and hotels are currently on pace to lose more than $500 million in room revenue per day based on current and future reported occupancy rates.

This pace means a loss of $3.5 billion every week and will only further escalate as the situation worsens.

Hertz Files for Bankruptcy

Mon, 2020-05-25 06:00
Former Hertz office stood at southeast corner of Arroyo Parkway and Fillmore Street. Current facility is at 2070 E. Colorado Blvd.

After more than 100 years in business, Hertz filed for bankruptcy Friday night, the latest victim of the sudden economic downturn sparked by the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The impact of Covid-19 on travel demand was sudden and dramatic, causing an abrupt decline in the company’s revenue and future bookings,” said the company’s statement. It said while it too immediate action in response to the crisis, “uncertainty remains as to when revenue will return and when the used-car market will fully re-open for sales, which necessitated today’s action.”

The company, which has a branch at 2070 East Colorado Blvd., has been renting cars since 1918, when it set up shop with a dozen Ford Model Ts.

Hertz survived the Great Depression, the virtual halt of US auto production during World War II and numerous oil price shocks, but it may not survive the pandemic.

The company has roughly 38,000 employees worldwide and is $19 billion of debt, according to news network CAN.

Hertz is among the largest companies forced to file bankruptcy

by the pandemic. The public health crisis has decimated companies dependent on consumer demand, including retailers, restaurants and oil and gas firms.

None of the companies to file so far have been as big an industry leader as Hertz.

The company dominates the rental car business along with Avis Budget and privately held Enterprise dominate the rental car industry.

But if no one is traveling, no one is renting cars. Most of Hertz revenue comes from rentals at airport locations.

Since the start of April, the number of people passing through TSA checkpoints at US airports has plummeted 94 percent compared with a year ago.

Pasadena Considering Closing Colorado Blvd as Part of Business Reopening Plan

Sat, 2020-05-23 06:21

The City Council’s Economic Development and Technology Committee kicked around the idea of closing Colorado Blvd. in Old Pasadena, either partially or completely, to allow businesses with limited indoor space take advantage of sidewalks and the area reserved for curbside parking.

The virtual discussion among members of the so-called EDTECH Committee on Thursday included many ideas about how to accommodate the reopening of businesses, especially restaurants, such as closing roads, and allowing for dining in alleyways, on sidewalks, in parking lots, and parklets, which takes over street parking that extends 8 feet from curbs.

Committee members wondered aloud whether Colorado Blvd. could be closed down, how that would impact public transportation operated by Pasadena Transit, Metro and Foothill Transit, and whether that would end up being a detriment instead of a benefit to businesses along the historic road.

“It can range on a monthly basis anywhere from about $83,000 to about $140,000 depending on how many streets we close and the duration of that closure,” said Transportation Director Laura Cornejo.

City Manager Steve Mermell said his office would have “a consultant under contract” Thursday afternoon to assist with the planning process, but he did not say how much that’s costing the city.

“Government can overthink and maybe become part of the problem,” said Committee Chair Victor Gordo. “I think we need to keep making progress but maybe incorporate more the voices of the business community.”

He and committee members Tryon Hampton, Andy Wilson and Steve Madison all encouraged the streamlining of any permitting process associated with any reopening, including alcohol Conditional Use Permits and signage.

One idea proposed by David Reyes, Pasadena’s director of planning and community development, was to allow businesses to “self-certify,” and only notify the city if there was a signage issue or outdoor dining accommodation adjustments.

“We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” said Madison. “I appreciate the point about restaurants are only one segment of our business community but having said that, this is an extremely important part of our entire city. For one thing, we are a restaurant town.”

All the committee members agreed the city should not sit back and wait until Los Angeles County and the state to give the go-ahead for businesses to reopen, to come up with a plan for the reopening. And all agreed with Reyes when he said, “None of this happens without the health order in place.”

“Businesses need to open and people need to get back to work,” Hampton said.

“We should find the easy opportunities to start doing some of these things and try to serve as many people as possible but not hold up the process where we’re trying to solve the hardest problem,” Wilson added. “Get some early wins, perhaps.”

He used Cameron’s Seafood Restaurant at 1978 E. Colorado Blvd., which is in his district, as an example.

“If they’re operating under reduced capacity they don’t need all the parking they have, so the idea of taking a portion of that and making it outdoor (dining) seems like a no-brainer,” Wilson said.

The result of the nearly two-hour discussion was City Manager Mermell and his staff are to return to either the EDTECH committee or full City Council detailed suggestions on how businesses can reopen. Mermell said it’s unlikely his staff will be able to prepare a report by next week, since it’s a short week because of Memorial Day, but could possibly have it ready by the following week.

Committee member Hampton encouraged his colleagues and city staff to be ready to reopen sooner rather than later because “what the governor has to say is going to change in three days. I mean, he’s changing his mind like every 40 minutes.”

Under his four-stage reopening plan, Gov. Gavin Newsom has allowed since May 8 curbside retail businesses resume operations, along with car dealership showrooms and golf courses. He said other non-essential businesses would be allowed to open later in Stage 2.