David Morris

In an attempt to increase his business, the owner of the Bread Garden Bakery on Domingo Avenue has put a sign in his store window alerting people that Peet’s Coffee, his next-door neighbor, is selling day-old pastries.

David Morris put up the sign on Tuesday February 23 as a way to lure customers to buy their pastries from his store, rather than Peet’s.

“I have a competitive advantage over Peet’s,” said Morris. “My bakers start work between 1 and 2 am. Peet’s baked goods have already been delivered by then. They basically are in the business of selling day-old goods. Mine are fresher.”

Morris is hoping to make enough of a nuisance of himself that Peet’s will take out its pastry case – or use Bread Garden products rather than those cooked at a contract bakery.

Peet’s declined to comment on Morris’ sign – or the contention that its pastries are a day old.  Stacey Lawrence, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail that Peet’s  provides “freshly baked goods and “is committed to being a good neighbor” to the Bread Garden.

This is not the first time that Morris has used signs to alert the community to the state of his business. In July 2009, he posted a notice in his store telling customers that business had dropped so much that he was considering not renewing his lease. He asked for recommendations about other towns he might relocate to.

The notice prompted Berkeley City Councilman Gordon Wozniak to intervene. Wozniak, who says he is “addicted” to the bakery’s morning buns, tried to drum up business for the Bread Garden by introducing Morris to the manager of the Claremont Resort and representatives from Peet’s. The Claremont agreed to use Bread Garden products in its restaurants, but Peet’s did not offer anything specific.

The Bread Garden opened in 1974. When Peet’s Coffee moved next door in 1980, Alfred Peet decided not to sell pastries so the two businesses wouldn’t compete, said Morris. For years, people would stop by the Bread Garden, pick up something to eat, and then go to Peet’s for coffee.  That changed a few years ago when a new corporation acquired Peet’s and put pastries in all the stores.

Morris saw an immediate decline in sales. And, as more and more bakeries opened up – there are now 22 in Berkeley — and people started buying bread at grocery stores, the Bread Garden’s business suffered, said Morris. That’s when he put the first sign up at the store.

The Bread Garden wasn’t profitable in January 2010, but it lost less money than it did in January 2009, which makes Morris optimistic. He has arranged a one-year extension on his lease and hopes that 2010 will be a better year.

But he still smarts when he sees all those people buying what he considers are  inferior pastries from Peet’s, which is why he stuck up a new sign in the store window. It reads, “Prefer Day-Old Pastries? Buy Your Pastries at Peet’s. When the Bread Garden’s bakers start baking today’s pastries around 1 a.m., Peet’s pastries for today have already been delivered — theirs were baked yesterday!”

It remains to be seen if Morris’ guerrilla tactics win or lose him customers. Although many expressed concern last summer that the store would close, and even helped Morris get his products stocked at Star Market, others were bothered by the tone of his appeal.

“I was totally annoyed and offended,” said one customer whose sons love the bakery’s pizza bread. She did not want her name used. “Every communication blames the neighborhood. It makes me feel like I am getting scolded.”

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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  1. OK – I will throw to a few “crumbs” for discussion. It’s well known that whole grains have many health benefits (better for blood sugar), so why is there such a “dearth” of whole-grain products carried by BOTH of these companies? I regularly buy Acme’s “Pan Au Lavain”, and would be delighted to purchase other whole grain baked goods from the Bread Garden. I’ve gone in many times and suggested this, but the last time I went in, I didn’t find it….

    David …you could make some dough here….



  2. David may want to spend a little time on his customer service to augment his otherwise tasty baked goods. I recently (after reading of his plea for increased business) rearranged catering for a business breakfast in SF so I could feature Bread Garden baked goods. Unfortunately, accomplishing this meant being able to pick up my purchase 15 minutes prior to the 7AM opening of the Bread Garden.

    Making this happen meant enduring a stern lecture over the phone from a Bread Garden employee about the unreasonable nature of my request. And after winning their consent, a reminder when I picked up the goods of the grand favor they did for me by “letting” me pick up my baked goods early.

    WOW – next time I’ll stay with Patisserie Delanghe in San Francisco. I won’t go 20 minutes out of my way, and I’ll get less attitude from the former baker to the Queen of England than I do from the Bread Garden crowd – and enjoy better croissants!

  3. I’ve walked into and out of the Bread Garden without buying anything, and I am not a fan of the pastries at Peet’s. The world needs to be buying their pastries from Sweet Adeline and Bakesale Betty’s, if not Arizmendi or the Cheesboard. La Farine was okay when it was owned and run by the sweet French lady that came up with the concept, but it has sadly gone downhill as well. Luckily there are so many bakeries to chose from.

  4. La Bedaine is amazing, the proprietor’s daughter happens to attend the same preschool as my son so we are often treated to the wonderful mini quiches and other mouthwatering delights!

  5. Interesting!
    I have been wondering lately if Bread Garden was still in business. Well, now I know … may be not for too much longer.
    Living on the other side of town, I get my bake goods at the Cheeseboard, even at La Farine off Solano. But I just discover La Bedaine… Yum, yum is all I can say.
    Try their goods at 1585 Solano or check online at http://www.labedaine.com

  6. At this point, it’s quite useless trying to tell David Morris to improve his product and compete. That’s EXACTLY what customers told him back when Councilmember Wozniak sought feedback on David’s behalf. But Morris ignored his customers then, just as he’s been ignoring them for decades now. His mediocre products were novel in 1974 (when I started eating them, BTW), but that time has long, long, long passed.

    The fact that 22 bakeries can exist in Berkeley alone tells you all you need to know: there must be a powerful demand to support that kind of supply. That’s something a normal businessman appreciates, not castigates.

    Look, some old dogs just don’t want to learn new tricks. It’s always sad when it happens, because you have to watch a painful and embarrassing self-destruction, but there’s only so much one can do.

  7. What Mr. Morris needs is good old-fashioned market research and a revised business plan. He should avail himself of an excellent (and free) local resource — the Haas Business School. MBA students are always looking for local businesses to help as part of their course work. Check it out, Mr. Morris, and you might learn a few things about products, prices, promotion, competition, etc.

  8. And to pile on just a bit… any bakery owner who has been located across the street from the Claremont Hotel for 30 years and only this year began selling them baked goods (after being prodded and introduced to them by a city councilman) exhibits some pretty poor business and marketing skills.

    I think Mr. Morris ought to take a walk around Berkeley and come up with some new recipes, some better marketing, maybe a little PR, a few promotions and a better attitude. No sympathy from me, though I think their stuff is pretty good. I agree however, that the competition is stiff! Come on Mr. Morris, get into the game and play, quit complaining from the sidelines!

  9. How long has Mr. Morris been the owner of the Bread Garden? I ask because I lived just around the corner my freshman year at Cal (1980-81) and I went there every morning and loved it. Maybe the competition has gotten better, or times have changed, I’m not sure … but it was an excellent bakery back then.

  10. I would have to agree that the Bread Garden is less tasty than La Farine and Cheeseboard. They have not refined their recipes even as other bakeries have evolved baking techniques, ingredients and flavors. I used to regularly buy bread and pastries at the Bread Garden, but the more bread I eat and bake, the more I prefer Acme and La Farine. Those are “old” competitors in the East Bay. I live near the Bread Garden and I wish it offered better baked goods.

  11. This is fascinating!
    I have resided in Berkeley only about 2 years and 3 months. I know this spot and the bakery isn’t really much to blow steam about. As a conessouir of some of the finest bakeries in the world I would rate the bakery as very mediocre at best! I strongly feel the baker would have served self and community if he cooked up some goods gratis to Pete’s and see what happened. Maybe then Pete’s customers could call cororate and demand better bakery items.
    Those in service related industry are successful when they meet the needs of customer base!

  12. I live in the neighborhood and buy bread just about every day from the Bread Garden. I love their 19th century baguettes. But this sign blaming Peets for the downturn puts me off. Come on in to the 21st century, David Morris. Have you looked around lately at your competition? There are now better baked goods than Bread Garden’s available at any number of local bakeries, and you can see the lines out the door at the best ones. Please stop whining about Peets, and instead spend some time researching what people want in 2010.

  13. If Bread Garden was on par with, say, a Cheeseboard or La Farine, there would be nothing for him to complain about, because business would be fantastic. The quality of his products has simply been outclassed, not just by Peet’s (although I personally don’t buy the products Peet’s sells because I don’t really like them) but by many other local establishments. The problem is not Peet’s selling pastries. Why shouldn’t they? It’s good business.
    When Bread Garden was young and there was not a lot of competition around, sure, I’d buy a loaf or a scone if I was in the area. But no more. He’s got to up his game. As a small business owner myself, I always have to remind myself to try to be irreplaceable. I suggest that David Morris include this idea in his lexicon of business practices.

  14. I wish the Bread Garden’s pastries (and Peet’s for that matter) were more like the Cheeseboard’s on the other side of town – that’s where I go for my muffins, scones and breads!

  15. Wow, I haven’t even been to the Bread Garden before but now I know I won’t ever go there. What kind of merchant slings mud, blames the community and threatens the customer base? In fact, I find most of this post to be pretty biased and inflammatory. Peet’s started in Berkeley and may be more of a corporation now, but Bread Garden don’t blame others for your shortcomings.

  16. A little customer research might help David Morris work out why people are heading to Peet’s for pastries rather than buy his. Personally I think Peet’s pastries are significantly better — much lighter, tastier and there’s a more interesting selection. Listening to your customers and high-quality good value products are the way to a successful business, not threats and accusations.