When pastry and real estate collide
Tartine, a world-famous bakery and San Francisco institution, opened its doors in 2002, on an unassuming corner of Guerrero Street, on the edge of the Mission District. The Internet bubble had just burst and the city was in a period of transition. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment had fallen from three thousand dollars a month to just under two thousand. Development had slowed, evictions and unemployment had skyrocketed, and commercial vacancies had increased. In the Mission, a historically working-class and Latino neighborhood, artists’ spaces have fought with real estate developers. Tartine’s neighbors included a used furniture store and a community center. The display case, which previously housed a pastry shop, was fitted with a panic button.
The bakery didn’t have prominent signage and didn’t need it: almost immediately people started queuing outside the door for citrus-scented morning rolls, puffy banana pies and with cream and loaves of millet bread and millet porridge. The bakery received praise 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 food celebrities: Prueitt was admired for her elegant baking and, later, her artful use of non-traditional flours, and Robertson for her approach to baking. bread making, with a long moist dough – fermented, then prepared by hand according to a strict schedule. Tartine breads are almost always sold within the hour. In the pre-Yelp, pre-iPhone, and pre-cronut days, queuing for baked goods was unusual in the Bay Area, and the lines outside Tartine became a hot spot. local landmark and symbol of a changing city. “Our favorite thing in this bread-rich town is the chewy crust and hazelnut breadcrumbs sourdough pain of the new Tartine de la Mission”, Gourmet wrote. “Stand in line”, the San Francisco the Chronicle reported. “Everyone is.”
Both Prueitt and Robertson radiated a particular type of Gen X bohemian — dedicated, ambitious, and airy. Aspiring chefs and bakers have traveled across the country to work with them. The bakery brought in a fleet of young and handsome artists, musicians and writers to work in front of the house, and for a certain group of locals the “Tartine girls” were a draw. The cafe, with its sturdy dark wood bistro tables set close to the knees, has taken on the qualities of a clubhouse, with bakers, baristas and waiters playing their own music on the stereo, hanging out after their shifts working and enjoying free drinks. of “quirky wine” from uncorked bottles. Samin Nosrat, then a young chef, organized paying dinners at Tartine; monthly concerts and art previews featured works by employees, and a bread-themed show featured a bread chandelier that lightly toasted in luminescent. “For me, that was just the heart of the Mission,” 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 great. Our friends were our bosses. It was like dream time, simulation time.
In 2005, Tartine began a small expansion. Prueitt and Robertson opened a nearby restaurant, Bar Tartine, which has won acclaim 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 Conductive Learning Center of San Francisco, a nonprofit special school for children with motor disabilities; she continued to lead Tartine’s pastry program, and in 2008 she and Robertson won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef.
A decade later, “artisanal” breads and bakeries are popping up everywhere. San Francisco was bouncing back and the process would soon pick up speed. In 2012, Facebook went public, and the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment came back to almost three thousand dollars a month. Activists began blocking the lanes of double-decker shuttles operated by Google, Facebook and other companies, which were picking up technicians at public bus stops. Facebook bought WhatsApp and Oculus, Google bought Nest and DeepMind, Amazon bought Twitch, and the minting of new millionaires accelerated. In 2014, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment exceeded thirty-seven hundred dollars. Some Tartine staff have faced rent increases or been threatened with eviction. “It was really like, Ugh, do we just work at Disneyland for Google employees?” Katie Lally, who was at Tartine from 2007 to 2011, told me. She remembers a customer who had ordered in the jargon of technological gadgets: “What is your sexiest pastry? What is the thing that everyone wants?
Technology was booming. Rents were skyrocketing. Tartine had thrived during an economic downturn. Now it was operating in one of the most expensive cities in the world. In Silicon Valley, startups were following a new business rule: grow or die. But how much was possible for an artisan bakery to grow?
In 2014, Prueitt and Robertson began work on a restaurant, cafe, and ice cream bar called Tartine Manufactory. They rented an airy space of six thousand square feet in the Heath Ceramics building, across from the Mission. Robertson had begun collaborating with Washington State University’s Bread Lab, and there were plans to incorporate a mill, allowing for the on-site production of unusual flours. “It’s kind of what happens: you find another place, you build a nicer kitchen, and you keep people around,” Robertson told foodie magazine. lucky peach.
Oakland’s Blue Bottle coffee company, which had just raised forty-five million dollars in venture capital for its own expansion, needed a baking partner to supply food in its cafes. (Today there are over a hundred.) Tartine soon announces a merger with the company. Anticipating a personal windfall, Prueitt and Robertson moved into a luxurious home in the Castro. A photoshoot posted by the Eater website showed off their specialty cookware, heated outdoor furniture and lemon trees. By the time the Eater coin went live, Blue Bottle’s acquisition had failed; the couple put the Castro house up for sale and moved out. Yet Tartine Manufactory opened its doors in the summer of 2016. According to its designers, its space, with light wood tables arranged under Noguchi paper lanterns, represented “a new kind of luxury” and referred to “lodges alpine cafes, Danish cafes, Stickley furniture and Japanese tea rooms.The Manufacture menu offered with sea urchin smorrebrod, beef heart tartare and soft buffalo; the following year he was nominated for a James Beard Award. Meanwhile, Tartine launched his own coffee brand, Coffee Manufactory, in partnership with Chris Jordan, a former Starbucks executive. Jordan became COO of Tartine Tartine developed a series of partnerships with investors, among them a real estate private equity firm called CIM Group.
CIM was founded in 1994 by Richard Ressler, an investment banker, and Avi Shemesh and Shaul Kuba, two Israeli immigrants whose landscaping firm Ressler had employed. The firm raises funds from individual and institutional investors, such as pension funds, and manages approximately $30 billion in assets, focusing on what it calls “thriving and transitioning urban communities.” and “opportunity zones”. He is one of the largest landowners in Los Angeles and a major business owner in Oakland. Like many large real estate companies, CIM is also a lender, providing the types of loans needed for major development projects.
CIM invests in Tartine’s coffee and bakery business. Coffee Manufactory planned to move to Jack London Square, a waterfront neighborhood in Oakland where CIM continued its redevelopment. For CIM, Coffee Manufactory needed to be an anchor tenant, a business that could attract customers and other businesses, increasing the overall value and character of the region. “It’s hard to grow these kinds of communities in the right way,” Jordan said at the San Francisco the Chronicle, in 2017. CIM, he continued, “includes, basically. They see that consumers want an organic and local experience.
By the mid-20th century, developers might have taken on shoe shiners and newsstands as amenity-oriented tenants. Today, they are more likely to search for gourmet cafes, bookstores, restaurants and cafes. It is not uncommon for developers to offer these tenants leases at reduced rent, or even rent-free. In some cases, tenants pay real estate companies a percentage of their income. For real estate companies, these devices can make it possible to open or revitalize a building; for business owners, they can provide respite from worrying about fundraising, being profitable, and paying rent; and for low-margin businesses, such deals can be one of the few viable paths to expansion. (In New York, Tishman Speyer, the real estate firm that’s revamping Rockefeller Center, has offered custom leases to restaurants and smaller businesses, including Van Leeuwen Ice Cream and record store Rough Trade.)
Tartine was a particularly attractive anchor tenant. The food was excellent and most of it could be prepared offsite, requiring a fairly modest square footage for retail sites. And Tartine had a story: the flagship location, with its team of artists and its shared atmosphere, exuded an authenticity that a property developer could only dream of cultivating. Year after year, the Tartine brand has become fresher, airier and more portable. Photographs of his Patisseries and his Guerrero Street Bakery had appeared in Apple advertisements and product demonstrations; Sweetgreen, riffing on a recipe from one of Prueitt’s cookbooks, had offered a “loaf bowl.” In 2018, an Eater article titled “Do You Even Bake, Bro?” credited Robertson with helping inspire hobby baking among Silicon Valley’s “disruptors, engineers, and tech bros.” That year, the bakery opened the first of six licensed locations in Seoul, one of which is located at Kinfolk Dosan, a cultural space created by the ambitious lifestyle magazine Kinfolk.