It’s hard not to feel energized the minute you walk through the door of the Golden Crown Panaderia in Albuquerque. Perhaps it’s the hearty smell of their famous green chili bread or the smiles on the faces of Pratt and Chris Morales, father-and-son co-owners. Or, possibly, it’s the free biscochitos.
Pratt Morales has been in the business of baking since 1974. His story is about love—a love for baking and a choice he made to pursue that love over 35 years ago. Formally trained as an accountant, the former auditor general for the Air Force decided that when it came to his career, he’d rather be working with a different kind of dough. So when he left the Air Force, Pratt chose to invest his life savings into starting a small, local bakery.
“And as it turned out,” Pratt says, “a bakery was an excellent place to raise a son.” After a divorce left Pratt a single dad while Chris was still young, Pratt had no choice but to bring his son to work. Over time, Pratt taught Chris everything he knew. “He started baking and being a great contributor to the business. It taught him self-confidence. Now look at him—he’s incredible.”
Chris has indeed brought incredible changes to the once tiny bakery. After studying computer science in college and working in the tech industry, Chris joined his father at the bakery with a vision to put La Panaderia on the map.
“I knew my dad had amazing products,” Chris says. “He had baked bread sculptures in the shape of a turkey for Thanksgiving and even made a Chinese dragon for a wedding, all one piece of bread.” Determined to shine the spotlight on his father’s unique art, Chris contacted major media outlets. In 2003, the Golden Crown was featured on the Food Network’s Food Finds, and national media attention followed.
Once the word got out, the Moraleses were blown away by the volume of customers flocking to their bakery. It was clear that it was time to expand, but in looking to finance the move Pratt found his lack of credit history made working with banks impossible. Then, in 2004, one banker mentioned Accion.
“When Accion came into the picture it was a huge relief,” explains Pratt. “We thought, ‘Now we have something to work with.’ We would still be where we were ten years ago if it weren’t for Accion.”
“How many banks will come sit down with you over a cup of coffee and help you with your business?” asks Chris. “The bigger banks have no way to give the support or the education—that’s why Accion is so important.”
Since the first loan in 2004, the business has grown tremendously. In 2005, the bakery expanded its offerings to include pizzas and sandwiches. Recently, La Panaderia has added a coffee and tea bar with a one-of-a-kind cold brew system. The next step? Chris says an indoor aquaponic garden, which will allow them to sustainably grow some of the ingredients they use in the kitchen.
“It’s a world of our own here,” says Pratt. “And it all revolves around love and respect between two human beings. I couldn’t afford a CEO, so I raised my own.” “If I had one wish, it would be that Accion gets all the money in the world, because they know what to do with it. They know how to communicate on our level. That’s what will turn this country around—it’s about support.”