In 1989, when I first started the Bread Workshop with John Simmet, I had no idea what lay in store for us. We started off as a wholesale bakery that would work collaboratively with the chefs of the bay area to develop breads for their stores. There have been many successes and many mistakes in the last 24 years, but it has always been a challenge. As a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week business, there was no end of activity, socialization, creativity, problem solving and, yes, stress. Many highlights have been had, including selling bread to chefs who I apprenticed with and studied under, meeting new and innovative chefs and opening a restaurant of my own. The people who have worked here have gone on and done many things, from opening their own bakeries and restaurants, to mediating, playing music, working at nonprofits, and getting graduate degrees from many highly thought of schools. Those who helped start the Workshop as young adults are now in their 40’s. The Atkin’s diet hit us hard around 2000, and John decided to step out. He is still a good friend and the owner of a tennis shop on Solano Ave. in Berkeley, “Plaza Tennis” (not a paid endorsement, despite his occasional donation of shoes to the cause), as well as a worthy salmon hunter.
In the beginning, the Bread Workshop was about Bread with a sustainable bend. We started composting with the City of Berkeley in 1994, and were in/among? the first 10 companies to do so. In 2004, it became about sustainability. We studied every ingredient that came into the shop. We would not let High Fructose Corn Syrup or trans-fats in the door, knowingly (it occasionally snuck in, but when discovered was abruptly shown out the door). We bought ‘to go’ containers made of rice or sugar cane stalks, utensils made of potato (a technology that I am now a bit dubious about) and were dedicated to help our vendors understand what is truly sustainable. Most of them saw the light and grew accordingly, some grew too big for us to order from.
In the past, we have served a president, a prince, decedents, many CEOs of companies big and small, amazing minds, both recognized in the academic world as well as Berkeley cafe philosophers, politicians galore, (with a special shout out to Nancy Skinner, who shared an office and has been a long term supporter, as well as a rare example of a politician that I trust even after getting to know her). Unfortunately, all streaks come to an end. Ours is coming to an end on June 30, 2013. I will try to keep this web page up, sans menus. Maybe I will actually have the time to update it occasionally with sustainable news and thoughts. I intend to always keep my head in the sustainable game, even if my hands aren’t.
The reasons for a business’s demise are always complicated, so I will not insult your intelligence by trying to encapsulate it with a blurb! If you want to know more, or just want to go out for some coffee, you can always email me at Bill@theBreadworkshop.com. I will hold this email as a symbol from the 23 years as owner.
I also would like to thank all those who have worked with me in this business, a few have been with me for 20 years, or close to it. To them I would like to give a heartfelt thanks, there is nothing on earth that can repay my gratitude to them. Lourdes, Eduardo, Ishmael, Delia – you are the best and will always be part of my soul. There is another handful that have been with me for almost ten years. I am also greatly indebted to their service, help, and dedication. And Carlos, though I am not a man of prayer, for you I will make an exception!
To my guests, thank you all for your support and dedication through the years! I have met many amazing people, I have truly felt the love that people have had for us, and am sorry to leave this community. My thoughts of sustainability have always had the local community in mind.
Our last cafe day will be June 30, 2013.
May your hunger always be satiated by worthy cooks!