We’re pretty sure you’ve wondered at some point in your life what it would be like to be called a king or queen. Just for a day, imagining all the pomp and circumstance that comes with being considered royalty. But can you imagine being called the king and queen of disasters? For Three Brothers Bakery owners Robert and Janice Jucker they are just that, the king and queen of disasters. Having survived 4 floods, a fire, and two hurricanes they have truly earned their respective titles. Despite their hardships this couple have beaten the odds, rebuilt time and again, and been instrumental in turning their devastation into a national movement.
Their Story of Survival
Their story of survival began in Poland in 1825 where the Jucker family were bakers making traditional eastern European baked goods from scratch. But that came to a sudden halt during the Holocaust when the entire family was sent to Nazi concentration camps in 1941. After the liberation, three of the surviving Jucker brothers made their way to the United States in search of a better life. They immigrated to Houston in 1949 and brought with them their family baking traditions and an unparalleled worth ethic.
The Extent of the Devastation
Since establishing business roots in Texas, Three Brothers Bakery has endured Hurricane Ike (2008), Harvey (2017), a fire and floods both in 2015 and 2016.
Ike forced Three Brothers Bakery to close for over 9 months and Houston’s most recent hurricane, Harvey in 2017, showed no mercy either.
The main store was flooded with over 4.5 feet of water. To add to this, the power went out for six days spoiling all of the bakery’s food. Everything had to be thrown out. Every inch of the store: walls, machinery, glass showcases, and pans had to be disinfected. Most of the equipment was replaced and that which could be salvaged was repaired. The Three Brothers Bakery team cleaned many items with toothbrushes.
In the meantime, Robert traveled the country buying delivery vans and new equipment because there were none to be found in Houston. Through sheer determination and hard work the Three Brothers Bakery was able to reopen 17 days after the hurricane.
The Shop Disaster Zones Idea
Despite these devastating setbacks, what would normally close any other business for good has propelled the Juckers into action. Not only have they continued to expand with three stores, an online one, and a wholesale division, but they’ve also created the Shop Disaster Zone (SDZ) initiative.
Like many other small business owners in America, the Juckers understand that they are the economic engine of this country. Since Harvey, many of these businesses in the Houston area have shuttered their doors for good. Or those that have managed to stay open have gone into considerable debt to do so, including Three Brothers Bakery. Currently, the only major financial resource available to small business owners is the SBA disaster loan program. This is something the bakery has tapped into, even winning the SBA Phoenix Award for Small Business Disaster Recovery in 2018, because of their work and triumphant return after Hurricane Harvey. But the Juckers felt they needed to do more.
That’s when they began the SDZ program. After Christmas of 2017, when the bakery had not reached their sales quota for the season they realized everyone was still buying the bare essentials. The traditions of large family gatherings had been cancelled because most families in the affected areas didn’t have the money to spend. Instead of buying gifts and Christmas trees, many people were still buying socks and sofas.
On August 6, 2018 in conjunction with VISA, the Juckers launched a website designed to support small businesses in the United States affected by natural disasters. This website helps consumers find local businesses they can support and at the same time provides owners, an online resource of organizations that can help them rebuild. The Juckers understand that many people want to help following a natural disaster but are unaware how to do so. They hope with the launch of their SDZ website they can encourage consumers to invest and buy from local businesses after a natural disaster. These enterprises are in need of the greatest help. The Jucker’s wish is after a catastrophic event, people automatically turn to small businesses and help simply by buying from them. It’s as simple as that.
A History of Giving Back
Yes, Robert and Janice Jucker have been called the King and Queen of disasters. Having survived two hurricanes, a fire, and 4 floods, they and their business have certainly faced challenges before. Yet, they remain undaunted and continue to give back. Throughout their history of natural disasters and despite the subsequent store closures they paid their staff during that time without interruption. Additionally, every day without fail Three Brothers Bakery delivers all of their excess baked goods to local Houston shelters. But it is their newest venture Shop Disaster Zones which they hope will not only positively affect Houston but small businesses across the country. Maybe now we can call the king and queen of disaster, the king and queen of giving back.