When bakery and real estate collide

Tartine, a world-renowned bakery and San Francisco institution, opened in 2002 on an unpretentious corner of Guerrero Street on the edge of the Mission District. The dot-com bubble had recently burst and the city was in a period of transition. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment has dropped from $3,000 a month to just under $2,000. Development slowed, evictions and unemployment increased, and commercial vacancies increased. In the Mission, a historically working-class and Latino neighborhood, artist spaces struggled with real estate developers. Tartine’s neighbors included a used furniture store and a community center. The storefront, which previously housed a bakery, came with a panic button.

The bakery had no prominent signage and needed none: almost immediately, people began lining up at the door to buy citrus-scented morning buns, banana cream pies, and creamy cornmeal buns. The bakery received rave reviews from Martha Stewart and Alice Waters and baked the cake for a “bohemian bohemian” themed birthday party attended by Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. Its married founders, Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, began to become celebrities in the food world: Prueitt was admired for her elegant pastries and, later, for her astute use of nontraditional flours, and Robertson for her approach to baking, with long wet mass. -fermented, then prepared by hand according to a strict schedule. Tartine’s buns almost always sold out within an hour. In the pre-Yelp, pre-iPhone, pre-cronut era, waiting in line for baked goods was uncommon in the Bay Area, and the lines outside Tartine have become a local landmark and a symbol of a changing city. . “Our favorite thing about this bread-rich town is the bread with a chewy crust and nut crumbs. sourdough bread of the new Mission Tartine”, Gourmet he wrote. “Get in line”, the San Francisco chronicle reported. “Everybody is.”

Prueitt and Robertson radiated a particular kind of Generation X bohemia – dedicated, ambitious, and joyful. Aspiring chefs and bakers traveled across the country to work with them. The bakery brought a fleet of young and beautiful artists, musicians and writers to work in front of the house, and for a certain set of residents the “Tartine girls” were an attraction. The cafe, with its sturdy knee-high dark wood bistro tables, has taken on club-like qualities, with bakers, baristas and waiters playing their own music on the stereo, hanging out after their shifts and enjoying free drinks. of “change wine” from uncorked bottles. Samin Nosrat, then an inexperienced chef, hosted dinners at Tartine; monthly art concerts and openings included works by employees, and a bread-themed show featured a bread chandelier that was lightly toasted as it lit up. “It was just the crux of the Mission for me,” Rachel Corry, a sandal maker who worked at the bakery for nine years, told me. Another employee said: “It wasn’t a professional place to work, but that’s what was so good. Our friends were our bosses. It was like a dream time, a pretend time.”

In 2005, Tartine began a small-scale expansion. Prueitt and Robertson opened a nearby restaurant, Bar Tartine, which was praised for its inventive and sophisticated approach to Japanese, Scandinavian and pan-European cuisine. They were nominated for the James Beard Awards and published a famous cookbook. Prueitt gave birth to a daughter with cerebral palsy and co-founded the San Francisco Center for Conductive Learning, a specialized nonprofit school for children with physical disabilities; she continued to run Tartine’s pastry program, and in 2008, she and Robertson won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Artist.

A decade later, “artisanal” breads and bakeries were popping up everywhere. San Francisco was on the mend, and the process would soon accelerate. In 2012, Facebook went public and the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment skyrocketed to nearly $3,000 a month. Activists began blocking the paths of double-decker buses run by Google, Facebook and other companies, which picked up tech workers at public bus stops. Facebook bought WhatsApp and Oculus, Google bought Nest and DeepMind, Amazon bought Twitch, and the coinage of new millionaires accelerated. In 2014, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment was over $3,700. Some of Tartine’s employees faced rent increases or were threatened with eviction. “I really felt like, Ugh, are we just working at Disneyland for Google employees?” Katie Lally, who was at Tartine from 2007 to 2011, told me. She remembered a customer she had asked in tech gadget lingo: “What’s your sexiest candy? What is the thing that everyone wants?”

The technology was growing. Rents soared. Tartine thrived during an economic crisis. It was now operating in one of the most expensive cities in the world. In Silicon Valley, startups followed a new business rule: grow or die. But how much was it possible for an artisanal bakery to grow?

In 2014, Prueitt and Robertson started working at a restaurant, cafe, and ice cream shop called the Tartine Manufactory. They rented an airy 1,800 square meter space in the Heath Ceramics building on the other side of the Mission. Robertson began collaborating with Washington State University’s Bread Lab, and there were plans to integrate a mill, allowing for on-site production of unusual flours. “This is what happens: you find another place, build a better kitchen and keep people,” Robertson told food magazine. lucky peach.

Blue Bottle, an Oakland coffee company that had just raised $45 million in venture capital for its own expansion, needed a bakery partner to provide food at its coffee shops. (Today, there are more than 100.) Tartine soon announced a merger with the company. Anticipating a personal windfall, Prueitt and Robertson moved into a luxurious home in the Castro. A photo shoot published by the website Eater showcased their specialty kitchen appliances, heated outdoor furniture and lemon trees. By the time the Eater article aired, the Blue Bottle acquisition had failed; the couple put the Castro house up for sale and moved out. Still, the Tartine Manufactory opened in the summer of 2016. According to its designers, its space, with light wood tables set under Noguchi paper lanterns, represented “a new kind of luxury” and referenced “Alpine shops, Danish cafes and , Stickley furniture and Japanese tea houses.” The Manufactory’s menu featured sea urchin smorrebrod, beef heart tartar and soft serve buffalo milk; the following year, he was nominated for a James Beard Award. Meanwhile, Tartine launched his own coffee brand, Coffee Manufactory, in partnership with former Starbucks executive Chris Jordan. Jordan became COO of Tartine Tartine has developed a number of partnerships with investors, including a private equity firm called the CIM Group.

CIM was founded in 1994 by Richard Ressler, an investment banker, and Avi Shemesh and Shaul Kuba, two Israeli immigrants whose landscaping company Ressler had employed. The company raises money from individual and institutional investors, such as pension funds, and manages about $30 billion in assets, focusing on what it calls “thriving urban communities in transition” and “zones of opportunity.” He is one of the largest homeowners in Los Angeles and a major commercial owner in Oakland. Like many large real estate companies, CIM is also a lender, providing the types of loans needed for large development projects.

CIM invested in Tartine’s coffee and bakery business. Coffee Manufactory planned to move to Jack London Square, a waterfront neighborhood in Oakland where CIM was seeking redevelopment. For CIM, the Coffee Manufactory was intended to be an anchor tenant – a business that could attract customers and other businesses, increasing the overall value and prestige of the area. “It’s hard to cultivate these types of communities the right way,” Jordan told the San Francisco newspaper. chronicle, in 2017. The CIM continued, “understands, essentially. They see that consumers want an organic, local experience.”

In the mid-20th century, developers may have taken over shoe shiners and newsstands as convenience-oriented tenants. Today, they are more likely to seek out gourmet cafes, bookstores, restaurants and cafes. It is not uncommon for developers to offer these tenants reduced rent or no rent leases. In some cases, tenants pay realtors a percentage of their revenue. For realtors, these arrangements can help open or revitalize a building; for business owners, they can offer a respite from worrying about fundraising, profitability and paying rent; and for low-margin businesses, these deals can be one of the few viable routes for expansion. (In New York City, Tishman Speyer, the real estate company renovating Rockefeller Center, has offered custom rentals for restaurants and small businesses, including Van Leeuwen Ice Cream and the Rough Trade record store.)

Tartine was a particularly attractive anchor tenant. The food was great, and most of it could be done off-site, requiring quite modest square footage for retail locations. And Tartine had a history: The iconic location, with its artistic team and community atmosphere, radiated the kind of authenticity a real estate developer could only dream of cultivating. Year after year, the Tartine brand has become fresher, more airy and more transportable. Photographs of her pastries and her Guerrero Street bakery have appeared in Apple commercials and product demos; Sweetgreen, drawing on a recipe from one of Prueitt’s cookbooks, offered a “bowl of tartine.” In 2018, an Eater article titled “Do you even bake, bro?” credited Robertson with helping to inspire the baking hobby among “the disruptors, engineers and tech bros” of Silicon Valley. That year, the bakery opened the first of six licensed locations in Seoul, one of which is located in Kinfolk Dosan, a cultural space created by Kinfolk, the aspirational lifestyle magazine.

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