The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tartine Bakery and Blue Bottle Coffee Call Off Merger

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Tartine Bakery and Blue Bottle Coffee Call Off Merger

The merger of Tartine Bakery and Blue Bottle Coffee has officially been called off...,

The news that Tartine Bakery was in talks to merge with Blue Bottle Coffee was met with more than a just a little skepticism. The idea that Chad Robertson's bread mystique would even consider a seat with Oakland based Blue Bottle was not one something most Tartine aficionados could stomach.

Announced last April it has taken this long for Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt, owners of Tartine and James Freeman, head of Blue Bottle, to came to the same conclusion their clientele had already made for them.

I was on the, "this will never work" side of the equation from the simple point of view that the Tartine Bakery already had the best formula - muscling in coffee as an equal "branding" to Tartine bread seemed somehow obscene.

Tartine is busy with new operations in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo. That's enough to keep anyone's plate full for the next several years. Blue Bottle has similar dreams but will have to pickup the "eats" part of their formula with someone else. 

Locally, the new operation plan is to open a restaurant/bakery named the "Tartine Manufactory", on 18th Street in the Mission District by next spring. The "new' part of their plan is to also mill fresh flour, hence the word "Manufactory".

One of the nouveau treasures of San Francisco has been preserved and has adapted its growth by listening to how their customers and friends felt about the deal and in the end nixed it. Bravo Tartine!

Wild-Yeast

doughooker's picture
doughooker

The next logical people for Blue Bottle to hook up with would be Josey or the people who used to run La Boulange.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

has a tie-in with La Boulange.  I find their pastries, etc less than stellar. A lot less.

g

KathyF's picture
KathyF

I believe that Starbucks has closed all the La Boulange stores and are now just selling the pastries in their stores only. However the original owner of La Boulange is opening up new stores in San Francisco in some of the La Boulange sites and calling them La Boulangerie. Don't know if it would be a good fit for Blue Bottle or not.

doughooker's picture
doughooker
Starbucks has a tie-in with La Boulange.

Forget the La Boulange chain now owned by Starbucks. That's why I was careful to say "the people who used to run La Boulange".

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

This is a San Francisco story so the logic won't make much sense to those who have never lived here. It's part of the City's charm.

Pascal Rigo, the ultimate Bordeaux expat entrepreneur and founder (1996) of the La Boulange chain of bread and patisserie based "dine-in" shops in and around San Francisco is back. He sold the chain to Starbucks for $100 million in June of 2012 - much to the dismay of his customers (well most of them anyway).

Starbucks plan was to add La Boulange products as an accompaniment to their coffee service - this did not go well.

Factory made reheated bread and pastry treats can't even pass the "Made in Safeway" test let alone convince the elevated expectations for authentic Parisian pastries as part of a morning re-adjustment.

Starbucks finally called it a day announcing that they were closing all La Boulange stores - all were closed by September. Starbucks continues to flog half-baked pastries that everyone loves to loath loudly - sales are still far below plan.

Turning the page, Rigo, no longer under the corporate bond of Starbucks, came to his senses realizing how much his original creation meant to his customers not to mention the damage the Starbucks interlude had had on his branding. Not one to worry long, Rigo in a "voila moment", announced that he will be reopening under a new name, "La Boulangerie de San Francisco". The original flagship shop on Pine Street location has returned re-opening in late October. Other locations are opening in the City on a monthly basis.

Rigo is also moonlighting as a director on the board of "The Munchery" as the company's Chief Customer Experience Officer - a title that can only be blamed on San Francisco's proximity to Silicon Valley. It is one of those companies always found at the end of a tech expansion with an idea to use technology to scale out old venues such as food delivery of fine cuisine to the home.

Instead of the patron coming to the restaurant to enjoy their fare it is the restaurant's fare coming to the individual in less time than it would take to travel to the restaurant, be seated and then served all through the magic of the internet. At the very least it provides Uber drivers with something to do in their off hours.

I have a feeling that Rigo will come blazing out on the other side when the new financial floor plan presents itself...,

Wild-Yeast

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

complete their merger with the coffee company so that they too could get a huge payday they so deserve like Rigo did and, if the new entity messed it up, Chad and his wife could then make a new start like Rigo is doing right now:-)  Corporate fools to take advantage of only come around every so often and these easy marks need to be taken when ever possible.  Sad Chad missed out on his chance.

PS Nancy Silverton is still laughing all the way to the bank and she was the first to score a big corporate payday to pave the way for the rest.

doughooker's picture
doughooker

I didn't know Rigo had hooked up with "The Munchery". That leaves Josey's door open as a potential Blue Bottle partner. Or Thorough Bakery.

San Francisco has bakeries coming out of its ears now.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Rigo's first incarnation "Bay Bread" also milled their own organic flour which will also be the case for La Boulangerie de San Francisco. Chad and Elisabeth are copying this with their "Manufacturory" plan.

I'd keep an eye on Peet's Coffee & Tea - they taught Starbucks the coffee trade...,

Wild-Yeast