Profile: Baker, Designer and Entrepeneur Charlie Pennes

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Profile: Baker, Designer and Entrepeneur Charlie Pennes

Charlie Pennes

Native Angeleno who started his career in the garment industry. Five years ago, he left the factory to chase his dream of baking bagels. Spending enough time in the kitchen, however, Charlie realized that the clothes we wear are directly related to the food we make. He founded White Bark Workwear to create chef wear made with the same standards and attention to detail that a chef uses to cook a great meal.

We are halfway through 2017. What was your resolution and have you kept it up?
While it wasn’t exactly a Jan 1st resolution: To stay present, be grateful, and know patience. I think keeping a resolution like that means resolving every day to be aware of the challenges it entails and continuing to practice these habits in the moment and thereafter.

What song describes your mood right now?
I don’t think there’s one song that really can really some up all the thoughts going through my head on a daily basis, but when I need some time for calm and reflection I’ve been listening to Heart of Life, by John Mayer. But when I’m ready to get some work done I usually throw on my Pandora “DRadio” station.

Would you rather be rich or famous?
I’m going to have to say rich, considering there are too many awful reasons people become famous and unfortunately not enough good ones.

How does the identity of your neighborhood tie into who you are?
I’ve lived in Culver City for about 10 years and have seen the neighborhood and the people who live here change a lot since I’ve moved in. I would say that while the neighborhood has gotten more affluent, it still feels like a small town in a lot of ways. So, while I love being a part of the greater growth and excitement of Los Angeles as a whole, it’s nice to have a quiet area to come back to.

What makes someone an Angeleno?
Knowing your street cleaning days

What do you wish you’d knew about Jewish culture?
I’d like to know more about the diversity of Jewish culture before and after coming to the US. I feel like as a culture we have homogenized a lot of Jewish customs that were more diverse prior to immigrating to the US. At the same time, having baked bagels and bialys professionally and worked in the apparel/ garment industry for almost 10 years, I’d like to know more about the Jews who moved to the US and were forced to work in sweatshops or bakeries to support themselves and their families. It’s interesting to see so many Jews such as myself continue to go back into these industries recently after so many years to preserve a culture that we as a group have tried to keep our children out of, by pushing them to be doctors and lawyers, etc.

You become the next big Jewish rapper, what’s your rap name? 
“Young Shmata.”

A question you’ve always wanted to ask a Rabbi?
“What’s for dinner?” …My dad is a Rabbi.

A piece of advice you would give 13 year old you?
Be adventurous and more open to making mistakes.

What was your Bar/Bat Mitzvah theme? 
Chanukah…My birthday is in December and it made choosing (or not choosing) a theme a lot easier.

What do you wish to be doing 10 years from now?
I’d like to continue to do a lot of what I’m doing now but on a larger scale. Meeting inspiring, passionate, and creative people, creating jobs in Los Angeles, increasing the supply and demand for industrial hemp and creating affordable, well-made and sustainable products and clothing that continue to allow people to pursue their passions and everyday lives.

What do you wish to be remembered for?
I’m still trying to figure that out, God-willing I still have a few more years to do so.

What would you like to see more of in the world?
A sense of humor. Everyone is so worried about being offended they forget to laugh and live. My elementary school gym was named after Don Rickles, a crass, insulting jewish comedian who passed away this year. That never would have flown today.

What’s the best part of working for yourself?
I’ve found that most jobs and careers try to pigeon hole people into choosing a specific focus, and as someone who has always had a less than stellar attention span its really nice to be able to see all aspects of a business from development, to marketing, to selling, to design, to production.

What’s a challenge of working for yourself?
Having all those roles I mentioned above means being responsible for a lot more on a day to day and month to month basis and its challenging, feeling like all the successes and failures of your business rest on your shoulders, especially at the beginning when the smallest things feel like they have a huge importance. At the same time, challenges faced and overcome tend to be some of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had to date.

If there is something to remember so far from your journey as a young entrepreneur, what would it be?
There’s a fine line between patience and nagging, and ultimately I think success comes from knowing when it’s important to utilize each of those skills. Everyone is busy and dealing with their own personal and work responsibilities. It’s important not to take things personally when someone doesn’t respond to your email, sometimes it’ll take three months, and sometimes you need to follow-up a few times to make things happen. Persistence balanced with patience.

Someone you look up to, and why?
My grandfather passed away over 10 years ago but he’s definitely someone I look up to. Having come from a family of little means in Philadelphia, he put himself through medical school (as his parents demanded, even though he was afraid of blood), moved out to California with a young family in the early 50’s not knowing anyone and built a private practice that allowed him to comfortably take care his family and others in need. He always kept a happy disposition and while most of his life as a doctor was quite rigid, I believe I received a lot of my creative abilities from him.

3 “Made in LA” or LA-based companies you recommend people keep an eye out for and support?
1. Urban Farms LA (@urbanfarmsla) – creates edible organic gardens and offers maintenance plans to keep them flourishing.
2. Lodge Bread (@lodgebreadco) – a locally sourced, organic flour bakery that’s laid back and offers high quality artisan breads and pizza.
3. Pulp Pantry (@pulppantry) – helps reduce food waste by collecting organic pulp from juice shops around the city and creates delicious, healthy snacks.

What trend do you wish would come back?
Industrial Hemp – Prior to 70 years ago, it wasn’t even a trend. It was a sustainable crop for 10,000 years. It was used for textiles, building materials, paper, food, oil and countless other purposes. It requires no herbicides or pesticides to grow, it replenishes the top soil, requires far less water than other plants, would provide lots more American jobs.

What are your summer plans?
To keep a healthy work/beach balance.

Give us your top 3 on the East Side for

Bite: Noshi Sushi – a no frills sushi bar in Koreatown that I’ve been going to since I was a kid and little has changed.

Bev: Tiki Ti – a 56 year old Tiki bar in Los Feliz with lots of charm and even better drinks.

Be At: Lake Hollywood Park – lots of grass and a few picnic tables, it usually gets a nice breeze and theres plenty of room to throw a ball around.


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