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About the Business

Over 30 years ago, Prescilla Tolentino decided to uproot herself from the Philippines and come to the United States. While no small feat in and of itself, it was even more complicated than solely emigrating to the U.S. While still in the Philippines, Prescilla opened her first bakery in 1979, Gemmae Bake Shop. The name? “Something unique,” she insisted, so she took her astrology sign, Gemini, and combined it with the month she was born in, May. “Gemmae.”

Come a decade later, the brand was such a success-with its focus on classic Filipino baked goods like ube loaves, ensaymadas, pandesals, and mamons-that it would eventually become a chain with more than ten locations spanning across the many islands of the Philippines.

Of course, with growth comes even more ambition. With some much-needed familial support (her brother was already living in Long Beach by the early 90s), she felt that she could take Gemmae and her family beyond the islands.

“My mother had grown her brand to 13 shops—we actually just closed the last one over in the Philippines in 2021,” said her daughter Catherine, noting the last shop in the city of Bacoor in the province of Cavite. “But by the late 1980s, she felt that she could take her concept past the wall of the Philippines and came here. She was ballsy: She had everything to lose—she had closed ten shops when she moved here-and she was like, ‘Screw it.’ The bravest person I know is that woman.”

Since, Gemmae as exploded as one of the finest representations of Filipino food and culture in the city.

Photos and written by Brian Addison. 

To read the full profile on Gemmae Bake Shop, click here.

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