Semifreddi’s Leaving Emeryville After 20 Years

July 15, 2009

Beloved Family Bakery Displaced by Pixar

Forced to Leave Town Despite City Promises

By Brian Donahue and Tracy Schroth

Sometime before Oct. 31, the final tray of baguettes will be pulled from the oven and another Emeryville business and its 125 jobs will vanish in the name of “progress.”

Semifreddi’s, one of the Bay Area’s leading craft bakers is being forced out to make room for the latest expansion by Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios.

“We would have loved to stay in Emeryville,” said Tom Frainier, co-owner and president of Semifreddi’s. “But there is no space for light industrial use such as ours anymore.”

The die was cast in 2000 when Pixar purchased the building at Hollis and 45th streets where Semifreddi’s, Bisco’s Café, Grainger’s tool supply, and other businesses called home. The building, a low-slung, brick and glass pre-war factory now has a firm date with the wrecking ball. It will be replaced by a new two-story office building, part of phase II of Pixar’s campus expansion. The campus, when complete, will stretch from 45th to Park streets, and from Hollis Street to San Pablo Avenue. It will be the largest uninterrupted parcel of commercial space in town. The entire campus will be surrounded by an 8-foot security fence.

Frainier said his company has had a good working relationship with Pixar, its neighbor and current landlord. However, relations with the City have been less amicable. Despite promises from Council Members Nora Davis and Dick Kassis that the City would help the bakery find a new home, Frainier said little was done to keep the bakery in Emeryville.

“Talk is cheap,” Frainier said.

The Bakery has operated in Emeryville for the past 20 years, delivering pastries, bread, and desserts to hundreds of supermarkets, restaurants, and specialty shops all over the Bay Area.

“Our first choice was to stay in Emeryville,” said Mike Rose, Semifreddi’s co-owner with brother-in-law Frainier. “We love it here.”

Rose said he has known for years that the end was coming. Pixar bought the building in 2000 with the intent of tearing it down. He said Semifreddi’s was never even given a chance to put an offer on the building. Since then, every effort to purchase another building in town has been unsuccessful.

“Every time we tried to buy a space in town, we were beat to it by condo developers,” Rose said. “Pulte Homes bought the last site before Semifreddi’s could.” Left with no choice, the bakery, which produces 160,000 loaves of bread a week, took its search outside the city limits.

Semifreddi’s has found an eager host in the City of Alameda, where it will relocate in November. It will keep company with two former Emeryville neighbors, Peets Coffee and Donsuemor, which makes gourmet French cookies.

“Emeryville has done everything to transform [itself] away from blue collar industry,” Frainier said, adding he’s watched it turn from a small town with “alittle bit of everything” to a city that caters to corporations and big box retail.

“Now the town has morphed into malls, condos, and office space,” Frainier said, lamenting that the many things that make a city attractive have been left by the wayside.

Frainier’s partner, Mike Rose, added that the city has “inadequate provisions for families,” which has created a “diminished sense of community.”

9 Responses to Semifreddi’s Leaving Emeryville After 20 Years

  1. Anonymous on July 15, 2009 at 12:49 am

    So sad….Maybe pixar could give semifreddi's a bunch of helium balloons so they can float away to their new site in Alameda

  2. Anonymous on July 15, 2009 at 1:09 am

    Why do certain council members make promises they know they won't keep? Probably when they assured everyone that Semifreddies would stay in Emeryville, they were hoping there wouldn't be something like the Secret News around later on to remind everyone. It's easy to see why the council hates you guys. Keep up the good work!

  3. Anonymous on July 15, 2009 at 4:43 am

    This is sad! I love Semifreddi's. I've always thought that SF is just the kind of business we need to attract here even though I also like Pixar. What a let down to see this happen. I find it hard to believe the city couldn't help them find a way to stay here. The problem with Pixar is that there's no interaction with the community. That fence is awful.

  4. Anonymous on July 16, 2009 at 1:53 am

    Semifreddi's pays good wages and has excellent health benefits for their workers (I checked, Secret News should have said something about this). These are good blue collar jobs Emeryville wants to ship out of here. What are they replacing these good jobs with? Service jobs (or IT jobs for folks with Masters degrees). That's the recipe Emeryville has come up with for how to improve our town. Nevermind how unethical this is, these guys have nothing but disdain for blue collar middle class people, their rhetoric notwithstanding. I say look at what they do rather than listen to what they say.

  5. Anonymous on July 16, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Semifreddi's just doesn't have have the moxie. So long and don't come back 'til you got at least a $ billion or two. Oh and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

    Jeeze, some nerve to think they could be players in Emeryville and be such small potatoes. So who's next?

  6. Anonymous on July 16, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Boo! on Pixar for pushing Semifreddi's Bakery out of Emeryville. Likewise…boo on our city council for promises made and broken.

  7. Anonymous on July 22, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    I attended the famous meeting where representatives for Pixar and Semi-Freddi's spoke. It was an important evening with the owners of Semi-Freddi's pointing out how many people they employed, provided benefits for, cared about (words not understood by most of our council members in the age of Super Capitalism). Dick Kassis, for one, gave an impassioned speech about how the city would find, yes find, a place for Semi-Freddi's, and that of course they (SF's) would be taken care of as they were a valuable asset to the city, (obviously not valuable enough). Haven't the council realized that we need to build community, think and act locally, design a city that has room for the ordinary, everyday connections that keep us mindfully engaged in the world. Relationships matter for body and mind; build a city that has some humanity. What this council will be remembered for is that it epitomizes the age of Super Capitalism, and that has been more of a destructive force than constructive.

  8. Mike on September 8, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    I'll miss walking over to get a loaf or a pastry when they go but to me what this really means is months [BANG!] of [BANG!] pile [BANG!] driving [BANG!] rattling [BANG!] my brain [BANG!] from the [BANG] moment [BANG] I arrive [BANG] at work [BANG] until time [BANG] to go [BANG] home. [BANG]

  9. Anonymous on September 16, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    With the exception of Mr. Frick, the city council is bought and paid for by developers. Nora Davis does not even answer my email questions.

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