It is a small business dream come true. A local bakery gets a knock on the door from Starbucks, who says they’d like to give you $100 million, a national presence, and the chance to up-market baked goods at all of its shops.
That dream came true this week for La Boulange Bakery in San Francisco, which operates 19 retail locations in the Bay Area and sells to upscale restaurants, hotels, and specialty grocery stores in the region.
With the acquisition, Starbucks gets to improve the baked goods within its stores, and on the heels of buying Evolution Fresh juice, another small business proprietor, suggests an interesting strategy of both improving the quality and breadth of its offering at its branded-stores, and in the grocery aisle, while growing independent boutique brands by keeping its acquisition’s independent retail presence.
This multi-brand, multi-channel strategy sounds like a wise move for Starbucks.
And, for La Boulange.
The brand was created by French master baker Pascal Rigo, who moved to San Francisco to start a wine export business, but stayed to open several restaurants before creating a chain of bakeries.
Over the years, I have met Rigo several times, as he and his business partners invested in, and founded, a number of restaurants including Soleil, Rigolo, Gallette, La Table, Le Petit Robert, Chez Nous, Americano, and Plantanos. One, Cortez, earned a Michelin Star. They were each stars in their own right, but none became the big business that would one day be snatched up by Starbucks.
La Boulange is known for its "artisanal" products, including croissants, pastries, loafs, cookies and breads. The shop near my neighborhood regularly has a line of fans waiting outside the door each morning. It has become a hometown neighborhood hero—one that we must now share with the world.
Félicitations, cher ami.
Starbucks has announced the scheduled rollout of the La Boulange offering, with the first pastries and bread to begin showing up in Starbucks' San Francisco stores in 2013. The offerings will initially focus on pastries and bread.