Sunday, January 20, 2008

Arizmendi Bakery Collective Rises in Emeryville

by Carolyn Jones

[Editor's Note: The Arizmendi Bakery is named after the Basque priest, Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, founder of the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation in Spain]

Fans of the golden scones, crusty sour baguettes and delicate, savory pizza from Arizmendi bakery can now save themselves a trip to Oakland's busy Lakeshore Avenue. The venerable collective, which also operates the Cheese Board in Berkeley and another Arizmendi shop in San Francisco, has opened a store in Emeryville.

The newest addition to the Arizmendi family, on San Pablo Avenue near the Oaks Card Club, is similar to its cousins but with its own twist to suit the new clientele, location and personalities of the worker-owners.

In addition to the standard array of muffins, scones and bread, it offers a few tantalizing pizza recipes not in rotation at the other shops, such as smoked mozzarella, ratatouille and fresh basil; wild mushroom, goat cheese and porcini oil; zucchini, sweet onion, chili, queso fresco and cilantro pesto; and a customer favorite, curry apple, walnut and beet. It also serves one familiar to all Arizmendi/Cheese Board pizza fans, who must number in the tens of thousands: caramelized onions, ricotta cheese and basil-spinach pesto.

As a bonus, 80 to 90 percent of the ingredients used at the new Arizmendi are organic, said worker-owner Linda Kallenberger. They also try to use seasonal products and work with farmers' markets, bartering bread for local produce.

But like the other bakeries, the newest Arizmendi operates as its own separate collective under the umbrella of the Development and Service Cooperative, which oversees all the bakeries. Each store is owned by the workers and decisions are made democratically, usually by consensus. At the new Arizmendi, there are nine worker-owners and four trainees, who will work there for six months and then have the option of buying in to the business for $5,000, if they pass muster with the other workers.

Although each store is run independently, customers can rest assured the baked goods are stamped with the collective's trademark: the bread is made from the same sourdough starter that's been used at the Cheese Board for decades.

"When we got our bucket of starter, it felt very special," Kallenberger said.

The move to San Pablo Avenue is a departure from the collective's other stores, which are in neighborhoods with heavy foot traffic. In Emeryville, Arizmendi is surrounded by sprawling parking lots and mega chain stores such as Home Depot and Pak'n Save.

The collective didn't plan on expanding into chain store central -- it was invited.

Neighbors around that stretch of San Pablo started complaining to the city about the proliferation of chain stores, and told the city council they want more small, independent businesses like Arizmendi, said Kallenberger.

So the city council took them at their word and invited Arizmendi to set up shop, with the help of a $350,000 grant. About a year later, Arizmendi was born.

"The neighborhood people really appreciate us," said Kallenberger. "They really want us to succeed. And business is starting to pick up."

With cars whizzing by at 30 mph and very few pedestrians, it's been tough getting started, Kallenberger said. Matters weren't helped when the potted trees out front were stolen. But with Pixar around the corner, dozens of businesses on Hollis and Park streets and new housing in the neighborhood, the lunch business is catching on.

"It's improving," she said. "The people around here are great. I think it'll be fine."

The new Arizmendi is located at 4301 San Pablo Ave., Emeryville. Pizzas run $15 for a whole pie, $8 for half (both available as half-baked pies) and $2 per slice. Phone: (510) 547-0550. Hours: Tuesday - Friday 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

SF Chronicle original article

Arizmendi Bakery
The Cheeseboard Collective

Interview with Thomas Storck

On Cooperative Ownership

John Médaille Interview in Romania

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