a man in chef's whites looks over a spread of baked goods
Isaac Yosef, co-owner of Frena. (Photo/Cathleen Maclearie)

Frena bakery is reinventing itself as a three-in-one kosher hub

The Israeli kosher bakery Frena, which drew eager customers from all over the Bay Area, will be fulfilling the demand for its popular Hanukkah sufganiyot — and then Frena will be no more.

It is not closing, per se, but it is changing direction to adapt to the new, sober reality of doing business in downtown San Francisco. “Downtown has been most affected by Covid,” said co-owner Isaac Yosef. “There are no open offices and not a lot of tourists.”

Yosef and his partners will launch a new endeavor after the holiday, wrapping together three kosher food concepts under the same roof. The storefront at 132 Sixth St. will now house Hummus Bodega (which launched last year in Frena’s Richmond District location) and two relatively new offerings, Soupchik and Pizza Pagaia.

Hummus Bodega specializes in Israeli-style hummus, available with multiple toppings, like fried cauliflower and sautéed mushrooms. Soupchik will offer a number of rotating soups, served with house-made garlic bread. And Pizza Pagaia will offer pizza and calzone, with pita and challah baked on Fridays. All items will be available for delivery through the usual delivery apps.

hummus, olive oil, chickpeas
Hummus from Hummus Bodega. (Photo/Courtesy Hummus Bodega)

While the SoMa location is too small to be called a food court, the several-concepts-in-one idea is along those lines, said Yosef.

“Most of the bakeries downtown are closed,” Yosef said. “We always knew we needed more than just the Jewish community to support us, and heavily relied on corporate orders. We always had a line of office workers coming in for breakfast, and a lunch rush, too, but none of that is coming back for now, so we have to adapt to our new reality.”

Opened in 2017, Frena quickly became known for its fluffy pita, Jerusalem bagels and Israeli savory pastries such as sambusak (filled pocket sandwiches) and borekas. The borekas and other items will still be available, but only by ordering them in advance through Frena’s catering department.

In the early days of the pandemic, Frena kept going by driving to different locations around the Bay, selling its goods outside synagogues and JCCs at scheduled times.

It worked for a while, Yosef said, but “the orders stopped when things reopened. The traffic came back, and it wasn’t profitable enough to keep doing it.”

Yosef’s partners in this endeavor are Din Leib, who came on board last year as part of Hummus Bodega, and Yani, the one-named Iraqi-Israeli baker who will still be working the ovens.

The Richmond District location at 5549 Geary Blvd. will also offer Soupchik and Hummus Bodega items. (Pizza Pagaia will only operate in the Sixth Street location.)

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."