One of the places I cherish the most in the Inner Sunset is Arizmendi Bakery. With its artisan breads, delicate pastries and thin crust pizzas, Arizmendi is everyone’s favorite neighborhood bakery. This will be obvious once you get there and you see the line to order stretching half a block but the wait is worth it once you dig into a freshly baked bialy or a blueberry crumb cake. What isn’t obvious is that Arizmendi Bakery is a cooperative business. To find out more about what that means for the employees who work there, I talked to one of their bakers, Aeri Swanson.
“In short, it means we all own and operate the bakery together, as equals. We make decisions collectively, at our monthly general meetings. The same person you see working the register, could also be the same person who baked the baguettes that morning, ordered all the flour for the week and takes care of bookkeeping.”
It all started in 1997 when the popular Berkeley pizza spot, Cheeseboard, another cooperative business, opened a bakery: Arizmendi in Oakland. This bakery was such a hit they opened another location in the Inner Sunset.
Along with influences and recipes from the Arizmendi in Oakland and Cheeseboard, Arizmendi in San Francisco makes their own recipes from the creativity of each individual employee. “One of the fun things about being a cooperative, is that inspiration can strike at any time! Panettone, Tres Leches, Whoopie Pies, Pop Tarts, these are just some of the products that individual baker/owners took interest in. People will make small batches to share with others, and then a "test kitchen" status happens, where the product is scaled up to ensure it works in larger amounts and the recipe re-worked.” Aeri explains. From the East Bay to the Inner Sunset, the quality of the baked goods at Arizmendi has created a community of loyal customers.
“Sometimes we see college students who were our customers as toddlers, sometimes our old and beloved customers pass away. The bakery has become a place where folks can chat with neighbors or have great conversations with strangers while waiting in line.” Aeri adds.
Stop by Arizmendi Bakery on 9th and Irving street and pick up a delicious baked good anytime 7:30 - 6pm from Tuesday to Sunday!