The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Starbucks closing La Boulange shops

Wild-Yeast's picture

Starbucks closing La Boulange shops

La Boulange, the small bakery chain founded in San Francisco by Pascal Rigo and later sold in 2012 to Starbucks for $100 Million will be closing the bakery shops by the end of September. Starbucks will continue to offer La Boulange products for sale through their outlets.

Rigo is part of the ex-pat French community in San Francisco and according the "The New Yorker Magazine" the only real entrepreneur in the bunch. He's been a pivotal figure in the bread scene in San Francisco and will continue to be as it appears he has plans for some of the soon to be closed shops - he will also be parting company with Starbucks corporate.

The quality of the goods sold through the Starbucks chain has suffered and received many complaints from customers of La Boulange. The quality decline is seen as coming from the production shift from the shops to a large scale production facility - Starbucks failed to maintain the quality - adding insult to injury they simultaneously downsized the product. This loss of reputation in San Francisco was (and still is) a perennial problem for Stabucks PR department. They've been able to keep it contained to San Francisco for the most part. 

I find this story to be intriguing - that a small French style bakery does not or cannot fit well within the confines of large corporate mono-culture is both refreshing and fascinating. That "artisan" and "corporate" are antonyms will come as no surprise to readers of TFL.

Starbucks will continue to offer the La Boulange products through their outlets - nationwide - they are the fastest growth items on the menu with food sales up 16 percent over the year before, and the new breakfast sandwiches sparked a 35 percent year-over-year growth in breakfast items. Songs of joy to the corporate mind...,


doughooker's picture

I saw this happen to the Pioneer bakery formerly located in Venice California. They turn it into factory bread. Quality and everything that brought the brand to prominence goes out the window. It might as well be Wonder Bread.

KathyF's picture

I remember well my disappointment when Just Desserts (the best NY style cheesecake ever) and Tassajara Bakery were bought out and then sold. I think they blamed competition for closing the bakery, but from what I observed, once they bought them they proceeded to cut corners and change the recipes. When that happened they lost their customers who were no longer getting what they expected from the products. Such a shame. I miss those cheesecakes and I loved the cottage cheese dill bread from Tassajara. I am going to have to buy their cookbook and see if I can replicate their bread.

Edo Bread's picture
Edo Bread

It happens all too often. I can't blame anyone for selling and enjoying the fruits of their labor, but rarely does the buyer have the same passion. They are interested in the bottom line. And as corners are cut and things are made generic, the magic that made it work disappear. That part is a shame.