Grand Bakery, the kosher store on Oakland’s Grand Avenue that closed on Dec. 23, is getting a second life of sorts.
Bob Jaffe, owner for the past 18 years, confirmed that he had found a buyer for the brand in Sam Tobis, a native New Yorker and graduate of U.C. Berkeley. The plan, according to Jaffe, is for the bakery’s kosher challahs and macaroons to be made off-site and sold again under the Grand label at Piedmont Grocery and Mollie Stone’s Markets, and possibly other outlets as well.
Jaffe said Tobis will not retain the lease on the Grand Avenue store.
According to Jaffe, Tobis was among many regular customers who were disappointed to learn that the bakery would be closing. Around February, Jaffe said, Tobis called to discuss his interest.
Several qualifications made him a frontrunner — aside from the fact that Jaffe had seen Tobis at a California Honeydrops show on New Year’s Eve (Grand shoppers all know what a music fan Jaffe is). “He really cares about the Jewish community,” said Jaffe. “He’s also computer savvy, hardworking and personable.”
And there’s his age: 29.
“I had others interested, but they were all in their 50s,” Jaffe said. “They might say they have it, but I know how I am. No one has more energy than me, and I’m 57. I took it to where it was in my 30s and now want someone to take it to the next level.”
Jaffe sold Tobis some of his equipment, recipes and “the goodwill of the Grand Bakery,” noting that the new buyer is “committed to keeping it kosher” and that the operation will continue to be certified by the Vaad Hakashrus of Northern California.
Jaffe also was happy that two of his longest-standing employees — one on staff for 17 years, the other for 16 years — have been rehired by Tobis “and will continue to craft the challah as they have always done,” said Jaffe.
A source offered that Tobis would be baking the challahs in a commercial kitchen in Oakland.
Tobis declined to be interviewed at this point, saying only, “I am excited to serve the Jewish community.”
A bit can be gleaned about him from social media. This is Tobis’ first business venture, and his job experience is not in the food industry, except for a stint as a line cook at Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen in Berkeley after he graduated from Cal.
The news of Grand Bakery’s sale was posted over the weekend on the social media site NextDoor by a woman who said she’d spoken to Tobis about his plans. Calling him “a delightful young man,” she said he told her the challahs would be made in the Food Mill bakery in the Dimond District of Oakland, and that they would also be available for private events and on special order.
There’s been no announcement as to when or which of Grand’s products will be available, but for that and more about Tobis, stay tuned. As for whether there will be a storefront again, at least for now, the answer is no.
“I feel bad for the community on some level, but I kept it going as long as I could, and tried as hard as I could,” said Jaffe.