Nabalom Bakery Plans to Close By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday July 29, 2005

The Nabolom Bakery, Berkeley’s second oldest collective, will almost certainly shut its doors at the end of August, said Jim Burr, a member of the cooperative and former chief financial officer. 

Founded in 1976, the Elmwood District institution has been teetering on the brink of financial collapse for several years. Burr said Wednesday the building’s property manager, Carrie McCarthy, has had enough of unpaid rents. 

Earlier this month McCarthy notified the bakery by certified mail that she would file for eviction proceedings Sept. 1 if the bakery did not fully catch up on rent payments. Burr said that by Sept. 1 the bakery would be three-and-a-half months behind on rent. Monthly rent for the bakery is $3,886. 

Bakery finances have deteriorated to the extent that, this past week, for the first time, the cooperative doesn’t have money to pay its 14 full- and part-time workers, Burr said. Besides unpaid rent, the bakery also owes about $36,000 in unpaid payroll taxes and several thousand more to vendors. 

Burr said financial mismanagement plunged the bakery into the red about four years ago. A poorly trained former financial officer took over the operation, Burr said, and promptly incurred over $40,000 in debts from penalties on back taxes. Then the bakery lost its major wholesale account with Fellini’s, a restaurant on University Avenue. 

The bakery, located at 2708 Russell St., has scheduled a community meeting for Monday at 7 p.m. to discuss a possible bail-out. As a last ditch effort, Burr said the bakery would try to secure $50,000 from the public in pledges by Aug. 15. That would give the bakery two weeks to collect the money and pay off its debts. Customers who pledge the money would be reimbursed through food. 

“I don’t really know what kind of community support we have,” said Burr acknowledging that the plan was a longshot. “But without [the pledges] I can’t see us staying open.” 

Last year the bakery held several meetings aimed at reviving the faltering business. The bakery tried staying open later and serving pizza, but neither managed to draw more customers. 

Burr said that the cooperative was also open to selling the business to a private operator that could pay off the debts and operate the bakery.