As a little kid, Kit Becker used to sit on an icing bucket in the back of her family’s bakery and watch her dad decorate cakes and cookies. Now, decades later, Kit is working her artistry.
“When I was little it seemed like the best place on the planet,” she says. “I got to go back there and see my dad decorating cakes and eat whatever I wanted. My friends couldn’t believe it.”
A family business at its core, Becker’s Bakery & Deli spans four generations. Kit, age 30, officially took over in 2021 from her father, Todd, who had run the business since 1984. Located in the heart of Manhattan Beach, Becker’s has been a mainstay in the community since 1942.
It all started in the 1930s when Kit’s great-grandfather Harry, a bakery supplier, delivered items to another bakery operating in the current location of Becker’s. When that family decided to sell the business, Harry jumped at the chance to buy the property and make it his own. He eventually passed the bakery to his son Stan, who years later gave the business to his own son Todd.
When the shop first opened, it brimmed with a variety of breads, decadent cakes and pastries. Once Todd took over, he scaled things back to focus more on cakes and cookies. He also brought in a little extra joy with more vivid icing colors. Kit has continued with that same vision. Walking into the bakery, you immediately see sugar cookies with bright hues in the shape of surfboards and flowers, alongside colorful cupcakes.
On the bakery walls are old newspaper clippings showing the store back in the day, along with school essays written by Kit’s two brothers, Max and Tommy, about their dad’s hard work and determination to make the business a success. The sugar cookie recipe passed down for generations and a delicious buttercream frosting recipe are customer favorites that set Becker’s apart from chain bakeries.
Clothing shops, restaurants and bars have come and gone, but Becker’s has stayed put. It’s one of just a handful of businesses in the city that have stood the test of time. The 100-year-old building housing the bakery became a historical landmark about 10 years ago.
“So many things are built up in the South Bay, but our place has easy charm to it,” says Brigid Becker, Todd’s wife and Kit’s mom. “Every time we have thought about remodeling or tearing down the building, we always pull back—it won’t be Becker’s. We have made some renovations over the years, but nothing too drastic.”
Being in business for 80 years means there are plenty of stories to tell. One of the most interesting ones was back in the 1980s when Burger King was opening a new store in the South Bay. The company commissioned Becker’s to make a huge cake that was 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide.
With a giant Burger King logo on the front, Todd and his team put the cake on a giant piece of plywood and planned to move it through the doorway. One problem: It was too tall. Fortunately, the team was eventually able to get the cake to the location after taking it out in smaller sizes.
Another amazing tidbit: None of the family had any formal training. Todd’s decades of experience allowed him to decorate about 10 cakes an hour—something he never could have imagined at the beginning. Watching her dad in the early years and then working in the bakery throughout high school and a few years after college made the transition of taking over the bakery easier for Kit.
The family never had a formal conversation about who would take over once Todd retired. It just happened naturally over a matter of years. Once Kit graduated from the University of Oregon with a film degree, she became a production assistant but quickly recognized it wasn’t the right environment for her to thrive. She then went to work for her dad full time.
Kit has made a few changes since Todd retired. One of her first big decisions was designating a small spot within the bakery for Hi-Fi Espresso, a local coffee shop with two other locations. It has been in the bakery since June 2021 and is a natural fit. She’s also focusing more on birthday cakes and picture cookies.
“I’m a proud dad seeing Kit take over like she has,” says Todd. “I don’t have to worry, and I know things will go smoothly with her. She is no-nonsense and has a great work ethic. Becker’s is in good hands.”
Kit arrives at the bakery by 7 a.m. every morning and immediately helps with the breakfast rolls, dipped cookies and anything else that needs to get done. As unglamorous as it may be, she’s also on the computer a big chunk of the day, responding to special-order emails. That’s been a holdover from the pandemic, with the majority of orders being placed via email. In fact, Becker’s actually chose to disconnect its phone. “Old school with a new-school kick,” jokes Kit.
Just like many other small businesses during the pandemic, Becker’s wondered if it would survive. After closing the bakery for one week, the family realized that it had to do something.
“Kit and I decided to sell at the front door,” says Todd. “We put down a folding table and had dipped cookies and cakes to sell. A lot of times we’d get no more than 10 people walking by an hour. We managed to make it through.” Residents kept Becker’s afloat, choosing to support the bakery and other local businesses.
“We have a ton of regulars,” says Kit. “I have seen a lot of kids grow up. Their moms keep coming in. They got their first birthday cake with us and now their eighth. It even makes me feel old.”
The family had thoughts of selling the bakery, especially during the pandemic, but never pulled the trigger. That decision became a blessing after Brigid was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer when Todd was retiring. Everyone realized how precious family is and that keeping the bakery was more important than ever.
As Brigid continues to go through treatment, she opened a home decor store in August—her lifelong dream—called The Hang. It’s located above Becker’s, which means Kit and Brigid are just a quick walk away from each other.
“The place has given us such a great life with so many great experiences and connections,” says Brigid. “It is almost like you are a little celebrity in Manhattan Beach.”
When Brigid and Todd attended events at their kids’ schools and people heard their last name, most would ask if they had a connection to the bakery. When they told them they owned it, people always wanted to know more and tell their own stories about visiting the bakery.
Todd always participated in career days at his kids’ schools. He’d dress up and bring cookies and cakes for the students and teachers, telling them about Becker’s and what he did on a daily basis.
Brigid has had a front-row seat to it all. Seeing her husband run the business and now her daughter, she is transported back to a time when Todd would bring out a pan of cookies for Kit when she was about 5 years old and have her squeeze a tube of icing onto the cookies, which they all called “star dots.”
That’s the kind of experience Brigid wants her grandkids to have too. Just recently, Tommy brought his young daughter Daisy to Becker’s. “The first time we brought Daisy to the shop, we realized it was a fifth-generation Becker who was walking through those doors. That is incredible and important,” says Brigid.
A staple in the community, Becker’s has no intention of slowing down. The way things are going, expect it to celebrate its 100th anniversary.